As NewsBeast layoffs begin, some are quitting on their own

Newsweek, fading away. ()
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Earlier this morning, Tina Brown announced the names of three editors who will top the masthead of the Newsweek-Daily Beast company after it replaces Newsweek's print edition with the digital-only title Newsweek Global in another few weeks.

Now Capital has learned that layoffs, for which employees have been bracing for more than a month, are imminent.

"The sad moment has arrived when we must go forth with the editorial staff reductions that we discussed in person with all of you several weeks ago," Brown and NewsBeast C.E.O. Baba Shetty wrote in a company memo obtained by Capital. "We are working to ensure that the process is handled as sensitively as possible."

Bill O'Meara, president of the Newspaper Guild of New York, the union that represents about 100 employees of the Newsweek-Daily Beast Company, confirmed that the Guild was notified of the planned reductions this morning.

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O'Meara declined to comment further. Asked about the scope of the cuts, a NewsBeast spokesperson said: "We do not discuss personnel matters."

But insiders expect them to be significant.

"The cuts will be substantial enough," said a person familiar with the situation. "Even with the cuts they're over budget."

On the bright side, no one will be sent packing before Dec. 31. But there's also been some further voluntary attrition.

Sources said that Melissa Lafsky, Newsweek's iPad editor, is leaving for a job at a startup, and that commentary editor Damon Linker has resigned for a teaching gig at the University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, Newsweek design director Lindsay Ballant, who stepped into the role after Brown lost Dirk Barnett to The New Republic, is leaving for a fellowship.

There had already been at least two other high-profile departures, shortly after the fold-up of the magazine was announced: West Coast editor Kate Aurthur left for BuzzFeed and star writer Peter J. Boyer left to work at Fox News.

Brown, who is editor-in-chief of the Newsweek-Daily Beast Company, announced earlier today that Newsweek executive editor Justine Rosenthal had been promoted to become the operation's editorial director, while Tunku Varadarajan, the executive editor of Newsweek International, will become editor of Newsweek Global. The international edition is being folded into the new digital title.

Deidre Depke, meanwhile, has been promoted from executive editor to editor of companion website The Daily Beast, an IAC title that merged with Newsweek in early 2011 following the magazine's sale from The Washington Post Company.

Following months of poor print advertising results, circulation declines and the loss of a key investor, Brown announced in October that the company planned to close down Newsweek's print edition and go digital-only starting in 2013. Employees have been waiting for the axe to drop ever since.

Brown and Shetty's memo about the staff reductions is below:

The sad moment has arrived when we must go forth with the editorial staff reductions that we discussed in person with all of you several weeks ago. Employees in the affected positions will be notified today. Much of this has already happened on the business side, and today we will be letting staff on the editorial side know where we will be eliminating positions. This is a very difficult day, and one that we approach with enormous regret.

Anyone whose job (or job category) is affected will meet today with a senior member of the editorial team. No one will be asked to leave before December 31st (and many will stay at least into mid-January). Managers will be getting in touch later this afternoon with groups of affected employees to let them know when and where their particular meeting will take place. After the meetings with management, you should feel free to speak with Holly Antiuk or Lauren Strada for more specifics on all aspects of this transition. We are working to ensure that the process is handled as sensitively as possible.

Tina & Baba