Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Time to Quit? Layoff Memos From Time, Sports Illustrated, People and Fortune

At least some of the Time Inc. employees awaiting their fate finally got some news today. Managing editors at five of the magazine group’s titles that employ Newspaper Guild members–Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money–sent out memos today detailing some of cuts, and asked for volunteers for a buyout program.

Last month, the Time Warner (TWX) magazine unit announced a sweeping reorg that is expected to cost about 600 employees their jobs. But the details have yet to be announced.

That started changing today, but my understanding is that the cuts won’t be accomplished with one swing of the ax, which is unfortunate for everyone involved.

Today’s memos will at least add some clarity, and I’ll republish them here as I get them, with your help. As always, I keep all correspondence anonymous: peter@allthingsd.com.

So far I’ve collected memos from four of the five titles, but am still looking for details on Money. Time, SI, People and Fortune are looking for 90 volunteers to leave their jobs.

Bear in mind that these memos only deal with editorial jobs. I’m assuming there are also significant cuts planned on the business side. Details as I get them.

[UPDATE: Some cuts on the business side, too. The company has laid off 92 people from its consumer sales and marketing group.]

Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer doesn’t spell out the number of volunteers he’s looking for in his note, but I’m told he informed staff today that he needs about a dozen positions eliminated:

Unfortunately, we will need to reduce staff at Fortune in the writer-editor, writer-reporter, designer, editorial assistant and copy coordinator Guild categories, and we are asking for a number of volunteers to leave the company with a severance package. If you are interested in confidentially exploring this option, please contact Dawn Dunlop in HR at [redacted] or Edith Fried at [redacted] by Friday, November 21, 2008. If we do not have enough volunteers, we will need to begin a process of involuntary layoffs. For your reference, the Company’s severance formula is in the Guild contract and is also posted on Time Traveler.”

Sports Illustrated needs 40 bodies gone within two weeks, says managing editor Terry McDonnell:

For the reasons outlined in Ann Moore’s reorganization announcement of 10/28/08, the Sports Illustrated Group will reduce the size of its staff across all properties. At the magazine, we will reduce staff in the following guild-covered categories:

  • copy editors
  • photographers
  • designers
  • photo equipment technicians
  • picture catalogers
  • picture researchers
  • reporter-researchers
  • research assistants
  • writer-editors
  • writer-reporters

A number of jobs not covered by the guild will also be eliminated at the magazine and across the group.

Approximately 40 guild and non-guild volunteers are needed over the next two weeks to avoid involuntary job eliminations. If the number of volunteers falls short by Monday, December 1, involuntary layoffs will begin.”

People wants to drop 18 editorial employees (via Gawker):

As part of a broad Time Inc. work force reduction, I regret to announce that People magazine will be making cuts in its editorial staff. We are looking for the volunteers to accept severance packages in the following Guild-covered job classifications:

  • up to 6 reporter-researchers
  • up to 4 Los Angeles-based staff members from among staff correspondents and writer-editors
  • up to 4 New York-based staff members from among staff correspondents, writer-editors and writer-reporters
  • up to 3 copy editors
  • 1 research librarian

We are also looking for up to two Guild-covered volunteers each in the Art Department and photo department, and one in the News Bureau.

In addition to this call for Guild volunteers, non-Guild employees may inquire about the possibility of volunteering for a severance package.

I urge all those interested to contact People’s human resources representatives [redacted] for details regarding their particular package.

In addition to the above cuts, we are looking for savings from full-time staffers interested in working a four-day week (Tuesdays off) for commensurate salary. This call is voluntary, and final decisions will be made based on business needs and management discretion.

The call for volunteers expires on Dec 1. If necessary, after that we will follow the Guild contract procedure for conducting involuntary layoffs in Guild categories.

If you have any questions, please see me or your department heads.”

Time is looking for 20 volunteers (via Newsweek.com editor–and former Time employee–Mark Coatney):

Due to the corporate restructuring, we need to reduce approximately 20 staffers at TIME across the following guild-covered categories: edit traffic assistant, writer-editor, staff correspondent, writer-reporter, reporter-researcher, designer, research cataloger and research librarian.

Volunteers in these positions or any others can raise their hands any time in the next two weeks. If we do not have enough volunteers by Monday, November 24th, we will begin a process of involuntary layoffs.”


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work