Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer John H. White usually achieves eloquence, not through words, but through the images he captures through the lens of his camera. Unlike most of us, he pauses to think before he speaks, and chooses his words with deliberation. Still, White has become the rallying point in the outrage over the decision of the Chicago Sun-Times to fire its staff of professional photographers in favor of iPhone pictures taken by reporters or sent in by the general public.
It was White's words of gratitude that brought a respectful silence to a Thursday, June 13th rally at the plaza of the James R. Thomson Center, and put the situation into sharp perspective.
Gratitude is a concept that's largely disappeared from today's commerce. A company, to be sure, is in business to make money. When we pick up a newspaper, or read it on-line, we've executed a commercial transaction. We've paid our money and expect value for it. We don't say “Thank you” to the people who created it, any more than when we put on a shirt, or eat a plum, we thank the seamstress or the farmer. As if we even know where we could find them.
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But, in the end, what remains of the Sun-Times? A thinning veneer of star columnists, reviewers, and reporters wrapped around a collapsing center.
And it is true, we cannot go back to where we were. We will never again have four competing dailies. The strangely reassuring sound of a thick brick of newsprint hitting our doorstep each morning is not coming back. The trees thank you.
What keeps a man alive?
He lives on others.
He likes to taste them first,
then eat them whole if he can.
Forgets that they're supposed to be
That he himself
was ever called a man.