A reputable newspaper in central Florida is eliminating its entire photography department. In what it calls a restructuring effort designed to increase the quality of video on its site, the Orlando Sentinel will instead send reporters out in the field armed with iPhones / iPads to report the news.

Earlier this week, the paper’s design, graphics and multimedia editor, Todd Stewart, informed the photography staff that their positions are being dissolved on March 17.

In the absence of a true photography division, the paper is creating eight new positions according to one journalist. These positions include two video editors, two video coordinators, two managers and two mobile photojournalists that will use iPhones or iPads to shoot video in the field.

I’ll be the first to admit that newspapers are on the decline and have been for at least a decade. I also completely get the idea of creating more video for the web but sending people out to capture news-grade footage with a mobile phone or worse, a tablet, is tough to swallow for someone that still appreciates quality.

Surprisingly enough, the Orlando Sentinel isn’t the first newspaper to eliminate its photography department. Last spring, the Chicago Sun-Times laid off all 28 of its full-time photographers. In their absence, reporters were forced to attend a mandatory training class to learn the basics of photography on the iPhone.

Do you think experienced photographers with professional camera gear are worth the effort or are you content to consume content shot on a phone / tablet?