Magazine journalists continued to feel acutely the decline of mass-market news magazines in 2009.
Jobs were cut, bureaus eliminated and beats cast aside.
And the cuts came after sharp reductions in jobs and bureaus over the last two years.
The effect is an inevitable reimagining of what a news magazine is, a change that, however bold, inescapably involves diminished ambition.
Obviously, the size of a staff partly reflects frequency, and many people now do double duty online and in print. Still, the numbers do offer some sense of health and are also one objective metric of capacity. Though numbers do not mean quality, there is in all the research we have done over the years one clear correlation between quality and staffing. The more time people have to work on something, the better the chance it will be better work.
Both Time and Newsweek closed down every domestic bureau not on the Eastern Seaboard, and reduced the number of staffers assigned to Washington. Newsweek shut its Baghdad bureau and U.S. News & World Report lopped off 38% of its newsroom and listed operations only in New York and Washington.
One exception was the New Yorker. The publication does not print a staff box and executives do not say how many people work there, but a spokeswoman said it was spared cuts in 2009.
The Week, which has always had a small staff, didn’t get any smaller.
News Magazine Staff Size Over Time
Time and Newsweek select years, 1983-2009
|Design Your Own Chart|
2008 Newsweek total reflects figures from a staff box published in February 2009. Source: PEJ research, from magazine staff boxes
After several years of painful job cuts, Time’s newsroom in 2009 fell below long-time rival Newsweek in size, according to an examination of the staff counts published in the magazines.
Magazines are often reluctant to reveal the total size and compensation of staffs. For those that publish staff names on their mastheads, though, we can get an idea of their size, although it may not be precise as changes from full-time to honorary or contract job levels are not always indicated in masthead lists. For this analysis, we count news-related jobs – not sales or marketing – and leave out staffers designated as “contributing,” a title that conveys they are not full- time staff.
An analysis of Time’s staff listings showed a 20% decline in overall positions and a geographical retrenchment during 2009.
|Washington (6)||Washington (4)|
|Paris (3)||Paris (2)|
|Jerusalem (3)||Jerusalem (2)|
|New Delhi||New Delhi|
|Beijing (2)||Beijing (2)|
|Hong Kong||Hong Kong|
Source: Time Magazine staff boxes published December 2008, 2009.
The number of correspondents assigned to bureaus outside of the United States was cut by more than 25%, from 23 to 17. The number of foreign bureaus was also trimmed, to 12 from 15. Gone altogether were postings in several key cities around the world that were often the source of significant news: Moscow, Berlin and Cairo. The number of people assigned to both Jerusalem and Paris went from three to two.
In the United States, the Washington bureau went from six to four. Closed altogether was Los Angeles, leaving the news department with no permanent presence in the United States outside of New York, Washington and Miami.
The biggest cuts came among various reporting positions. The number of positions classified as senior writers, writer-reporters, reporters, senior reporters and senior correspondents fell from 32 to 24.
The numbers are striking over time. The number of people listed as staff at Time as of the end of 2009 was 147, less than half the 304 listed in 2003 and only about 40% of the 362 listed in 1983.
The number of contributors listed on the masthead shrank too, to 25 from 33 the year before.
Newsweek, too, was preparing “cost saving initiatives” at the end of 2009, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission by the magazine’s parent company, the Washington Post Company.1
The filing said 44 staffers – news and business-side — took advantage of a buyout in the first quarter of 2009. That came on top of 117 that accepted similar offers the year before. In November 2009, another 12 jobs were eliminated, according to a memo to the staff from editor Jon Meacham obtained by Politico.2
A comparison of staff boxes published in February 16 and December 7, 2009, showed the retrenchment, especially in domestic bureaus.
Total newsroom staffing fell by 16 to 150, from 164, a drop of 8.5%.
Other than Washington and Miami, all seven domestic bureaus were eliminated. The Washington staff was cut to 12 from 16.
The total number of foreign bureaus and journalists assigned to them remained constant, but there were changes in the lineup. The magazine closed its Baghdad bureau, which had three people assigned to it at the beginning of the year, as well as bureaus in Tokyo and Hong Kong. At the end of the year, new bureaus were listed for Beirut, Rio de Janeiro and Berlin.
Newsweek.com staffing fell by one, to 18. The international edition’s staffing actually grew by five, to 13. The number of people assigned to the picture desk fell to seven from 16.
There were also title changes during the year. The categories of assistant managing editor, associate editor, senior editor and contributing editor were eliminated. In their place were added contributors, senior article editors, senior writers and staff writers.
To put this in some perspective, Newsweek staffing of 150 is 15% less than the 176 employed in 2003, and down 56% from the 348 listed as staff in 1983.
Meanwhile, the number of contributors grew to 36 from 33.
|Washington (16)||Washington (12)|
|Cape Town||Cape Town|
|Rio de Janeiro|
Source: Newsweek staff boxes, December 7, 2009; February 16, 2009.
A reduction in frequency and a shift in focus resulted in a cut of more than a third of the newsroom at U.S. News & World Report.
A comparison of the staff boxes published in December 2009 with the 2008 year-end issue shows drops in a number of job categories.
Among the categories taking losses: the number of senior writers went from 12 to five deputy editors went from nine to four, and reporters went from 11 to five. The design and photography desk fell from 23 to eight.
The 2008 box showed staff based in New York, San Francisco and St. Louis. In addition, special correspondents, who were not full-time employees, were based in France and the Middle East.
The 2009 list shows only New York in addition to the Washington headquarters.
Over all, the masthead listed 76 newsroom jobs in 2009, down 39% from 124 in 2008.
The New Yorker does not print a staff box but the New York Observer has taken it upon itself to occasionally construct one from byline counts and other sleuthing. The Observer reported in November that the New Yorker staff appeared to be about the same size as it was four years earlier.3
The faux staff box shows a surprisingly robust staff of 187, not including editorial assistants. The total includes 11 critics, 66 staff writers, 24 “cartoonists and cover artists,” and 15 fact checkers supervised by a “head of checking” and two “deputy checking heads.” 4
“In order to do what we do, we need a sizable staff,” New Yorker editor David Remnick told the Observer. “We don’t publish 10 issues a year, or 12 issues a year. We publish 46.” 5
A spokeswoman for the magazine would not comment on the Observer list’s accuracy, other than to say it included some people who are contractors and not full-time employees. But, she said, the magazine, at least as of the end of 2009, had been spared the job cuts that were imposed on other Condé Nast publications despite its own 28% decline in ad pages sold.6
“We’re lucky that we did not have any staff cuts this year. It’s hard to make predictions, but we don’t foresee any,” said the spokeswoman, Alexa Cassanos.7
The London-based Economist, a weekly that uses almost no bylines out of preference for its institutional voice, also doesn’t print staff boxes. But a count of its online phone directory shows a large and sprawling global workforce of journalists.
As of December 2009, the list had 97 journalists and four overseas bureaus — in San Paolo, Paris, Tokyo and Washington. The list also shows correspondents living in China, East Africa, Cairo, Chicago and Moscow.
The Atlantic, a monthly, listed 51 news people on its digital masthead as of January 2010, along with 36 contributors.
1.Washington Post Company, 10-Q filing with the SEC, November 6, 2009.
2. Michael Calderone, “Layoffs at Newsweek,” Politico.com, November 11, 2009. The memo does not specify if the layoffs were in the newsroom or across the company.
3. John Koblin, “The Last Magazine Standing,” New York Observer, November 10, 2009.
4. John Koblin, “The Last Magazine Standing,” New York Observer, November 10, 2009.
5. John Koblin, “The Last Magazine Standing,” New York Observer, November 10, 2009.
6. Alexa Cassanos, PEJ interview, December 17, 2009.
7. Alexa Cassanos, PEJ interview, December 17, 2009.
8. Bill Falk, PEJ interview, December 4, 2009.