The Media Today

The media today: Layoffs, shutdowns, and salary outrage

February 1, 2018

Layoffs, firings, shutdowns, and other forms of downsizing in the media industry are nothing new, but the pace seems to be picking up speed. Or perhaps it’s just something that comes in waves; and if so, we are in the middle of a big one. Whatever the case may be, there seem to be more announcements every day, and there are fears Facebook’s recent decision to de-emphasize news on the platform could accelerate the damage.

Just a day after CJR wrote about the difficulties some foreign journalists are having with selling their freelance reporting, the director of the International Reporting Project at the public-policy foundation New America announced the project is shutting down, effective next month. The IRP has funded reporting for more than two decades in over 115 countries. No reason was given for the decision.

ICYMI: “One of the most elaborate undercover stings in American journalism history”

Meanwhile, significant layoffs are underway at Digital First Media, a chain of newspapers, many of which are in California, that includes The Orange County Register. In a statement released on Wednesday, the Los Angeles chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists expressed its “sadness, frustration and dismay” at cutbacks at the company’s Southern California News Group. “People often complain about unresponsive, unaccountable local government and vanishing local news is a large part of why this is able to occur,” SPJ wrote.

More cuts have also come to The Oregonian, the state’s largest newspaper, with 11 staffers losing their jobs, in the sixth wave of layoffs at the paper over the past several years. “You’re probably asking yourself, when will these cuts end? I wish I could answer that,” editor Mark Katches said in a statement to staff. “Although we have made progress growing our digital audience while also producing award-winning and important journalism, the revenue picture continues to pose challenges for our company.”

Related: Freelancing abroad in a world obsessed with Trump

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Here are some more links related to this depressing cavalcade of bad news:

  • Foreign Policy shutdown: While reporting CJR’s recent story on the problems faced by international reporters, Yardena Schwartz confirmed that Foreign Policy magazine—historically one of the more reliable destinations for freelancers who want to write deeply reported international pieces—is closing its foreign bureaus, something the publisher hasn’t yet announced officially.
  • Pulitzer winner bankrupt: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, a family-owned newspaper in West Virginia that won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism last year for a story about the prescription opioid epidemic in the state, said Monday it has been forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Wheeling Newspapers, which publishes weeklies in a number of West Virginia towns, is the leading bidder to take over the paper.
  • Salmon fishing: Against the backdrop of so many layoffs in the industry, it’s probably unsurprising that there’s a considerable amount of frustration (and perhaps more than a little envy) at reports that former Fusion writer Felix Salmon—who recently announced his departure—was being paid $400,000 a year, according to The Awl. Salmon was one of a number of high-profile hires Fusion made in 2014. In a cruel twist, The Awl is also shutting down due to a lack of funds.
  • Vox Media boasts: While BuzzFeed missed its financial targets for 2017 and recently laid off more than 100 people (something CEO Jonah Peretti discussed with CJR in an exclusive interview), Vox Media chairman and CEO Jim Bankoff said in a memo to employees that the company hit its 2017 targets, although he admitted hiring will slow this year and some projects will be “scaled back.”


Other notable stories:

  • Jeff Good, executive editor of New England’s Pioneer News Group, said in an email to staff that he had been fired for advocating for transparency and equal pay for female employees at the Daily Hampshire-Gazette and other papers in the chain, but the publisher and some former female editors at the group have disputed Good’s characterization of the reason for his departure.
  • New York Times writer Farhad Manjoo has figured out who is responsible for all the bad things on the internet—the advertising industry. “The online ad machine is a vast, opaque and dizzyingly complex contraption with under-appreciated capacity for misuse,” he writes. “One that collects and constantly profiles data about our behavior, creates incentives to monetize our most private desires, and frequently unleashes loopholes that the shadiest of people are only too happy to exploit.”
  • Notorious alt-right personality Mike Cernovich is reportedly interested in bidding for the remaining assets of, the website that was once the cornerstone of founder Nick Denton’s media empire before a lawsuit from former wrestler Hulk Hogan forced the company to shut down. According to a pitch letter obtained by Vanity Fair, Cernovich wants to acquire the site for $500,000 and turn it into a destination for “viral content.”
  • Andy Fitch talks to Danielle Allen for the LA Review of Books about the Harvard professor’s work chairing the Pulitzer board for nonfiction, and how this has shaped her thinking about the methods, forms, and outcomes investigative journalism needs to function properly in a political environment like the one we are in now.
  • Lauren Katzenberg, co-founder and managing editor of Task and Purpose, the news site published by and for military veterans, announced she is joining The New York Times as the editor of At War, a vertical the paper is launching soon that will focus on military conflicts around the world.

ICYMI: Sexual harassment in the newsroom: An oral history

Correction: The Charleston Gazette-Mail has filed for bankruptcy protection and Wheeling Newspapers, which owns a number of papers in West Virginia, is the leading bidder for the paper. An earlier version of this newsletter contained an incorrect description of the two companies.

Mathew Ingram is CJR’s chief digital writer. Previously, he was a senior writer with Fortune magazine. He has written about the intersection between media and technology since the earliest days of the commercial internet. His writing has been published in the Washington Post and the Financial Times as well as by Reuters and Bloomberg.