Newsweek Hit With Buyouts in the Wake of Tina Brown and The Daily Beast Takeover


Newsweek, the long-suffering magazine, was purchased by audio equipment billionaire Sidney Harman way back in mid-2010 and hobbled on, losing employees along the way, but impressively still managing to put out a product every seven days. Then, after months of rumor, Tina Brown came along, joining her own website The Daily Beast with Harmon’s print product and promising “Vanity Fair meets the New Yorker,” quite conveniently considering she once ran both. (Update: Brown, through a representative denies making this characterization.) Unfortunately, as a Newsweek spokesperson put it today, “In any merger, there are potential overlapping functions,” and today the long-expected cutbacks began. Find out how bad the damage is below in Press Clips, our daily media round-up.

Brown’s Beast: Though the new editor-in-chief has made a few hires already for her new project, including upstarts like Nick Summers and as well as a pair of more practiced veterans, word came down today, first from Keith Kelly at the New York Post, about 30 voluntary buyouts on the editorial side for members of the remaining Newsweek staff:

“The buyout offer was put out this morning,” said Bill O’Meara, president of the Newspaper Guild of New York, which represents about 90 Newsweek staffers.

He said not everyone was offered the chance to take the buyout and that it is entirely voluntary.

“The expectation is that less than 10 people will take it,” he said.

Yahoo’s The Cutline has a few more specifics, including an interesting bit about how age factors in:

He declined to specify the details, but said the buyouts amount to “a minimum of four months pay if they accept, plus some extra money on top of that.”

Individual buyout offers depend on the length of employees’ time with the company.

Employees under 40 will have 21 days to decide whether they will accept the buyout packages; those 40 and older will have 45 days.

As most know, after buyouts generally come layoffs, so fear could likely factor into the decisions to be made. Meanwhile, Brown also lost one from the Daily Beast side of things: Peter Lauria, a high-profile Brown hire from the New York Post, has split after only 10 months, under vague and tense circumstances not fully known. Personnel shifts aside, there’s still no concrete word on when to expect a revamped editorial product.

NYT Issues: In other union-affiliated news, also reported on by Yahoo’s The Cutline media blog, the Newspaper Guild of New York is willing to drop $1 million on a campaign to “rally public support for journalists and other unionized staff” who face pay cuts at the New York Times.

“Times management’s contract proposals, as they stand now, would ruin the paper,” said Guild President Bill O’Meara in a statement. “They undermine the spirit and unique commitment of the many people who produce The Times and they will accelerate the brain drain that has already resulted in the departure of many talented journalists for better opportunities. Management is leading us to a future where The Times will be more of a content farm than a place for great journalism.”

Carlos Slim, meanwhile, the Times uber-wealthy one-man bail out team, probably felt a pang in his pocket.

Living the Dream: In a small bit of celebratory news, sportswriter Katie Baker, who managed to get published in the New York Times Magazine, New York and most often at Deadspin, while also holding down a high-level position at an important (and evil) financial institution, will transition into full-time sports writing in association with the Sports Guy Bill Simmons. Details about Simmons’ new editorial product, where Baker will write, are forthcoming.

In Case You Missed It: Slate’s Jacob Weisberg on The Daily: “It represents everything that I hope you will steer clear of as journalists and people who think about news in relation to technology. I mean, first of all the content itself is very low-brow, facile, kind of USA Today, you know. It’s very attractive, but if you read the articles, they’re 600 words long and they sort of digest what you know already.” And there’s more!


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