Editors Are Feeling Burned

As they take to Tumblr to plead for their jobs

When Newsweek and The Daily Beast announced on Friday that they were merging the two brands and installing Tina Brown as editor in chief of both, many were skeptical that both sites could survive online. Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that would soon cease to exist, and that the site (with five million monthly uniques) would be rolled into The Daily Beast (with its estimated two million).

The New York Times article was the first that staffers had heard of this development, and a few of them (anonymously) took their frustration out on a new Tumblr page, Save The blog’s inaugural post, “A Defense of,” is scathing and bitter, detailing everything that the online editors have accomplished “In the face of indifference, condescension and even outright hostility from its print counterpart; with little to no resources….”

Here’s an excerpt that might have some web-savvy journalists—especially those working within the constraints of legacy-media organizations—pumping their fists:

The thing you have to understand about Newsweek is that it would only be fitting that its Website would be the first to go. Like most print publications, Newsweek magazine has been led by people who deep down don’t understand the Web, and because they don’t understand it, they fear it and don’t value it.

While high-level print editors were taking sleek black towncars to and from the office (and everywhere in between, including, on at least one instance, from DC to New York), this was a staff who slept on grimy couches while reporting on the road; forking out their own funds, at times, just to produce good work. The disparity in work hours, in pay, in resources—it was comical. And it was only telling that not so long ago—let’s say five years—one high-level company executive had to be corrected about the Website’s URL: no, wasn’t the same thing as the internal Newsweek intranet.

Later, the authors pose several questions, things they would worry about if disappeared:

What will be the ramifications for Newsweek’s Web presence in terms of SEO? For branding? For our partnerships with MSNBC and MSN? What happens to Newsweek’s (still-unleveraged) archives? How do you preserve a “national treasure” (as Harman has called it) without a Web presence bearing its name?

This afternoon, Tina Brown tweeted:

Whoa!’s superb content will live on under its own banner & in URLs on the new site. Not shutting down, combining.

OK, “combining,” then. Even if old posts are archived on the new Beast/Newsweek hybrid, the domain name will still cease to operate as an independent entity, and new content will be subject to Daily Beast editorial standards and formatting. Not to mention that there’s no guarantee that editors will survive the inevitable redundancies.

So what does this all mean for “NewsBeast”? It does seem curious to fold a higher-traffic site into a lower-traffic one, no matter how shiny and youthful the lower-traffic one looks at the moment. Last time I checked, The Daily Beast was still a money-losing operation. And it’s hard to argue that The Daily Beast has a more recognizable brand name than Newsweek anywhere outside the Manhattan media machine. Is the decision to kill, as some have suggested, more of a declaration of ego than a sound business move? Or, if the execs in charge are as clueless about the web as the Tumblr post claims, maybe they don’t really have a plan after all?

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Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner