The recent revelation that Time Inc. is ranking its writers based in part on their work’s value to advertisers is causing a stir in publishing.
Gawker received a spreadsheet from the Newspaper Guild – which had been provided with it as rationale for layoffs at Sports Illustrated – that includes criteria for Time reporters like “Quality of Writing,” “Impact of Stories/Newsworthiness,” and “Produces content that[‘s] beneficial to advertiser relationship.”
SI‘s writers were awarded points ranging from two to 10 in each category. The rankings were used to helped determine who would survive company-wide cuts and who wouldn’t.
The news comes on the heels of Time Inc.’s recent struggles and spinoff from Time-Warner, as well as scrutiny of CEO Joe Ripp’s decision to have editorial staff report to the company’s business side. While Gawker takes the opportunity to lament “the full-scale dismantling of the traditional wall between the advertising and editorial sides of the company’s magazines” and wonder why Time Inc. wouldn’t “continue to adhere to the normal ethical rules of journalism out of simple pride,” is it possible that critics are overreacting a bit?
It’s terrible anytime someone loses their job, and this spreadsheet is a clumsy – at best – way to make those decisions, but isn’t this just another sign of the times. Time Inc. thinks so, of course:
“The Guild’s interpretation is misleading and takes one category out of context. The SI.com evaluation was conducted in response to the Guild’s requirement for our rationale for out of seniority layoffs,” SI spokesperson Scott Novak said in a statement to Gawker. “As such, it encompasses all of the natural considerations for digital media. It starts and ends with journalistic expertise, while including reach across all platforms and appeal to the marketplace. SI‘s editorial content is uncompromised and speaks for itself.”
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