Results tagged “layoffs” from ARTicles

When a publication lays off a batch of key employees, the editor has to say something in an attempt to soothe the staffers who remain. Still, as reassurances go, "Today's changes won't be noticed by readers" is unlikely to pass muster. That's what editor Tim Gray told the survivors at troubled Variety yesterday after he laid off chief film critic Todd McCarthy, chief theater critic David Rooney, film critic Derek Elley and "features editor/indie film reporter Sharon Swart, along with several copy and design desk employees," according to TheWrap.

Even if the three critics take Gray up on his offer to let them continue as freelancers, there's no question that readers will notice the difference. Using what has become boilerplate language for media industry budget cutters, Gray told survivors in a memo, "Our goal is the same: To maintain, or improve, our quality coverage." A laudable ambition, but firing people is a thoroughly unrealistic way of attempting to reach it, as editors and publishers well know. What's remarkable is that, as long as they're dealing in fantasy, they don't come up with better talking points.

The issue is not solely one of skilled, experienced critics being cut loose -- though McCarthy, a 31-year veteran of Variety, speaks eloquently to that in an interview with Sharon Waxman. There's also the matter of what happens behind the scenes. Newspapers never have had fact-checkers as such, but good editors and copy editors serve that function, and they've saved many a writer's butt from inaccuracies, inadvertently libelous statements, and general sloppiness. Of course, it helps immensely when those editors know the writers, and therefore know what to look out for. With fewer editors, and freelancers rather than staff writers, the holes in the safety net get larger, and the publication suffers. That can get expensive. For a current case study from a related industry, see publishing's "The Last Train From Hiroshima" debacle.

March 9, 2010 9:44 AM |

Apologies for my lengthy absence, though I have been reading you all.

In case anyone imagined that managers in our business are any different from those in finance or law enforcement, check out today's layoff memo from the editor-in-chief of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Romenesko, otherwise known as Our Dedicated Obit Site).

So warm, heart-felt.

My favorite phrase goes immediately into the Doublespeak Dictionary: "involuntary separation offer."

I've always imagined the grim reaper asking me if I'd care to join him.

March 25, 2009 9:49 AM |


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