Time Inc. Fires 289

Time, Inc. is continuing to downsize its staff, eliminating 289 jobs yesterday, including
117 on “the business side” and 172 from the editorial team. No word yet on how the breakdown but “crown jewel People, flagship Time and other magazines from Entertainment Weekly to Sports Illustrated” were hit.

“As you all know, the past year has been a time of transition at Time Inc.,” said Chairman-CEO Ann S. Moore in a midday memo to staff. “While we continue to invest in our core magazines, we are also focused on transforming our work force and broadening our digital capabilities in order to become a truly multiplatform publisher. But progress brings change and we need to continue to evolve to meet the cost pressures and challenges presented by our rapidly shifting industry,” she added.

The handling of the cuts wasn’t the best, either:

Time magazine’s regular 10 a.m. meeting was canceled in favor of an all-hands gathering later on, leaving staffers to worry and wait. The word in the end was that the newsweekly will lose 40 or more spots, of which it hopes 31 will be volunteers. Time also shut down its Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta bureaus.

When businesses restructure, it’s imperative to make the staff cuts in one fell swoop so that anxiety doesn’t build and good people don’t jump ship. Anticipation of bad news is usually worse than the event itself in these cases.

I’m not sure what Time‘s business model is at this point. I subscribed to all three of the big newsweeklies at one point, although I canceled Time rather quickly because it was the least hard-newsy. It has been years since I took Newsweek or US News, either, although I occasionally read stories online.

Still, if Time is going to survive as a major player, it has to do so on the strength of a deep, talented editorial staff. Shutting down regional bureaus and decimating the staff strokes me as wrongheaded, as strong beat reporting is the only reason a weekly could be relevant in an instant information world.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis provides an inside perspective on Time, Inc. and thinks this long overdue. He describes the inefficient process at People in the 1980s:

Mind you, once reported by a cadre of correspondents and written by a staff writer in New York, it was edited (read: rewritten) by a senior editor and edited (yes, rewritten), by an assistant managing editor, and then edited (and, with surprising freqency, rewritten) by the managing editor. And then the research came along to try to correct all the errors this process inserted in the story.

The ’80s were a long time ago, of course, but he notes that Entertainment Weekly‘s staff had grown to enormous proportions as recently as last year. Romenesko has links to a series of reports on the story, most of which seem to support Jeff’s thesis.

FILED UNDER: Media, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    As I noted in a post about my dad’s tenure as editorial page editor of the long-defunct St. Louis Star-Times, it wasn’t all that long ago that most jobs in journalism paid little if anything at all. The move towards professionalism and the rise of the J schools over the last generation or so hasn’t had the desired effect of limiting entry (and, consequently, making larger salaries economicly sustainable). Advertising and the dissemination of information, generally, isn’t like the practice of medicine.

  2. Mark says:

    Maybe they can do a Sullivan-like pledge drive and claim the money is needed for paper costs. heh.

  3. I am struck by the comparison of the MSM process and the continual job improvement process (good example is Japanese automotive manufacture). In continual job improvement, you get the people doing the jobs to propose ways to do the job better. You test out the changes and get the system stable with a higher productivity. Then you spin and do it again. The job takes 10 people?, then lets try it with 9 and see how the tasks get split up. Rather than having a quality inspector at the end of the line, make each employee their own quality inspector. The worker know if things aren’t working right. And if the worker knows but doesn’t care, no number of quality inspectors is going to reduce your scrap.

    Sorry, all the signs point to as major of shake up for the MSM as the big three auto companies had in the 70’s/80’s.

  4. Rodney Dill says:

    Read that:
    Time Magazine fires the 2006 Person of The Year —
    289 times over.

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    I think there’s some sense in what you’re saying, YAJ. One of my barometers for detecting when an industry is in for change is when you hear a certain number of “our…are the best in the world”.

    We heard quite a bit of that in the 1960’s and early 1970’s in response to the influx of first German (the VW) and then Japanese automobiles. “American cars are the best in the world!”

    And that, essentially, is what the press is saying in response to the challenges that blogs and bloggers pose for them. It’s also what’s being said about our healthcare system.

  6. Herb says:

    It is so good to see that the “left Wing, Liberal” media is suffering from their bias and anti Bush rhetoric they have espoused for far to long.

    Whats even worse is that their fellow left wingers are “Not” supporting their many anti American positions.

    To Bad the NYT is not in trail.

  7. Rodney Dill says:

    The other reason for quick staff cuts is to send a message to shareholders that costs are undercontrol. You can always start hiring immediately after such cuts, and some companies as a practice do so.

  8. Kent G. Budge says:

    I’m not sure why anyone would be surprised about the cuts at People. Its patrons read it to be titillated without the social stigma of being seen with Playboy (or whatever its female-audience equivalent is.) Nowadays you can do that much more efficiently and privately with an Internet browser.