Sports Illustrated magazine has fired their entire staff of photographers. With less than a weel left before the largest football game, the Super Bowl, the biggest sports magazine in the world no longer has any staff photographers.
Creating iconic images for the popular sports weekly was the job of Simon Bruty, Robert Beck, David E. Klutho, Bill Frakes, Al Tielmans and John W. McDonough. Now, this year, it appears that Sports Illustrated will be relying heavily on freelance photographers to live up to the standards of these legends.
The layoffs were confirmed by Brad Smith, SI’s director of photography, on Friday morning. In an interview with told News Photographer magazine, Smith confirmed the report. Time Inc., the parent to Turner Broadcasting, HBO, Warner Bros and the publications division had spun off Sports Illustrated and their other magazines in the publishing division last year. It was part of a cost cutting measure that is still ongoing. Now, according to Scott Novak, spokesman for Time Inc., the restructuring is continuing, and in this case, Sports Illustrated lost their staff of photographers.
Smith said that Sports Illustrated is going “to re-evaluate what’s best for the magazine.” The magazine is determined to continue to present some of the best sports images in print each week, however, instead of using a staff of top photographers, the freelance world and wire services will be tapped for these photos.
Time Inc., has been restructuring the company for a while, which has included a cut of 500 jobs last year. This has been to offset the loss in revenue from the lack or failing print advertising market. Without the advertisers, the magazine’s budget appears to have been stretched thin, resulting in the layoffs.
While Beck, Frakes and the others are no longer employed by Sports Illustrated, Smith hopes that they will continue to produce images for the magazine. However, it would be as freelacners as opposed to staffers. It is not clear at this time if any of the six will consider shooting for the magazine or look for other staff positions.
Novak spoke on the new direction of Time Inc., in regards to photos. He said that the company is reimagining the way the company approaches their photographic coverage of events. How this will affect the special features and photo coverage Sports Illustrated has given events in the past is unclear.
Smith stated that Sports Illustrated will still be giving photographic coverage to games, championships, the Final Four, Olympics and other major sporting events. However, it is not clear if SI will contract freelancers and send them to these events or if they will contract photographers in the area. This could be a door opening for a freelancer with dreams of being printed in Sports Illustrated, however, the publication may lose its quality standard without a staff of the top photographers in the world.
What will happen to Sports Illustrated now that the entire photo staff has been laid off is unclear. It may be months before any sign of a lack of a photo staff is evident. Many readers of the magazine may not see a change in the quality, or there may be an obvious drop off of quality. Many sports photographers dreamed of being a staff shooter for Sports Illustrated. SI photographers were considered the best of the best when it came to sports coverage. Now they are no more, for now.
By Carl Auer
Senior Photo Editor