Denver Post lays off photo director year after winning photo Pulitzer
In April 2012, as captured by a Denver Post video on view below, staff members at the paper learned about Craig F. Walker winning the Pulitzer Prize for photography while gathered around director of photography John Sunderland's computer. The image suggests that Sunderland was viewed as the veteran coach of a very successful team enjoying a big win.
A year later, Sunderland has been laid off in a move editor Greg Moore characterizes as sad but necessary for the paper's survival.
Sunderland's LinkedIn profile shows his stint as director of photography at the Post getting underway in 1995, eighteen years ago. But -- update -- we just learned he actually started way back in 1962. He hasn't been at the paper continuously since then: He served in the U.S. Army for three years (he was based in Hawaii) before returning to the paper, then left again in 1984 to run Photo Staff Inc., a freelance photography business, alongside Ernie Leyba. But after signing up with the Post again in 1988, he stuck around for the next quarter century.
The 2012 photography Pulitzer was the second on Sunderland's director-of-photography watch: In 2010, Walker also won the big prize for feature photos.
According to a memo penned by Moore, who said he didn't have anything more to add to the piece when contacted by Westword, today will be Sunderland's last at the paper, and he's not alone. Also laid off was Keith Morse, a data delivery editor/web news content producer, whose own Linkedin profile offers the following summary of his career in journalism:
Award-winning online and newspaper copy editor, documentation writer and employee trainer. Detail-oriented editor who can collaborate with small groups and coordinate projects. Accustomed to both tight and long-term deadlines.
Key figure in four publishing system installations at The Denver Post. Currently working on a fifth for the Post's sister paper, The Boulder Daily Camera.
Moore's memo pays tribute to Sunderland and Morse, as well as referring to a longtimer laid off in June -- beloved librarian Barbara Hudson. Yet he suggests that the moves shouldn't come as a surprise given recent comments by John Paton, CEO of Digital First Media, the Post 's parent company.
"This cannot be helped," Moore writes. "Just a couple of months ago, John Paton stood in our newsroom and told us more cost cutting is in our future before we stabilize revenue and get to a point where we can reinvest. Growing digital audience and revenue are obvious keys to 'crossing over' and again experiencing revenue growth."
Here's the complete Moore memo, followed by the aforementioned video.
I am sorry to have to inform you of more cost-cutting in the newsroom. You all know the story. Budget pressures continue and we are confronted with making tough choices. It is always difficult because in every case now we are talking about people.
Today, I informed two valued members of our management team that they were being laid off.
John Sunderland and Keith Morse have served this newspaper with commitment and creativity and will be missed. Their departures will increase pressure on those of us who remain.
This cannot be helped. Just a couple of months ago John Paton stood in our newsroom and told us more cost cutting is in our future before we stabilize revenue and get to a point where we can reinvest. Growing digital audience and revenue are obvious keys to "crossing over" and again experiencing revenue growth.
We are doing everything we can to contribute to that growth with new ideas and ever greater digital effort.
As we traverse this terrain, we have tried to make cuts mostly by attrition -- eliminating open positions.
But there are painful days like these along the way. On top of Barbara Hudson in June, we now lose two more treasured colleagues. I am grateful to John for his hard work and leadership in our photo department. And we will miss Keith's focus and ingenuity regarding our systems and his database work on our website.
Their official last day is tomorrow. Please join me in thanking them for their service.
More from our Media archive circa April 2012: "Craig F. Walker's Pulitzer Prize for Denver Post one more reason to root for newspapers."
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.