Layoff season is under way as Newsweek begins notifying staff

Capital New York | TPM Livewire

Newsweek is about to begin laying off staff, a move expected since the publisher scheduled its print magazine to shutter at the end of the year.

A memo from Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown and CEO Baba Shetty informs staff "the sad moment" has arrived, and that affected employees will be notified today.

The extent of cuts is not clear. Capital New York reports there has already been some voluntary attrition from folks who didn't want to stick around.

In an interview with Michael Kinsley last month, Brown talked about the Daily Beast's purchase of Newsweek as "a romantic gamble" that lost:

We felt that for the Daily Beast—such a frisky digital brand—to have a print platform as well would be great. And, actually, that proved to be true. But every piece of the Zeitgeist was against Newsweek, combined with an unfixable infrastructure and a set of challenges that really would have required five years in an up economy to solve. ...

Let’s face it -- when I look back on it, taking over Newsweek, it just seems completely insane, actually. Within the first few months, one of the partners dies -- before we’d even really gotten the office straight. I came into a situation where pretty much every senior member of management had departed. ...

We came in and there was no executive editor, no managing editor, no news editor, no Washington editor, no features editor. I mean there was, really, nobody. There were some fantastic people in copy and some young writers, but there was no management infrastructure. We had to kind of fling in the already overstressed Daily Beast staff, then had to try to merge these two cultures. Many on the Newsweek staff were taking buyouts, except they hadn’t yet taken them, so you didn’t know who was going and who was staying.

Brown also revealed that it cost $42 million just to print Newsweek, "before you’ve even engaged one writer, or one copy editor, or one picture editor."

The plan for 2013 is to launch a digital subscription product called Newsweek Global, some of whose content will be available on the Daily Beast. Earlier today Brown promoted three people to leadership posts for that venture -- Justine Rosenthal becomes editorial director of The Newsweek Daily Beast Co.; Tunku Varadarajan becomes editor of Newsweek Global; and Deidre Depke becomes editor of the Daily Beast website.

The Newsweek layoffs join others in what is becoming an increasingly sad December for journalists.

"The fourth quarter does tend to be prime time for layoffs," Poynter business news analyst Rick Edmonds told me. Most companies budget for the following year beginning in September and October, and if they've decided they need fewer people for the following year, this is usually when the cuts occur.

And now there are (unconfirmed) reports on Twitter from former Guardian and Observer writer James Robinson that that company is seeking to eliminate 68 jobs:

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    Jeff Sonderman

    Jeff Sonderman is the deputy director of the American Press Institute, helping to lead its use of research, tools, events, and strategic insights to advance and sustain journalism.


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