From the President: We Stand with Sports Illustrated
By Grant Glickson,
President, The NewsGuild of New York
The layoffs at Sports Illustrated yesterday was one of the most chaotic purges of talented journalists I’ve seen in two decades of my activism with the NewsGuild of New York.
The handling of this situation was a complete failure of management — from Meredith to Authentic Brands Group to TheMaven (the various owners of the publication, respectively, over the past two years). As many of you probably saw on Twitter and beyond, the day was a rollercoaster for those journalists at SI.
On a day that people have been preparing for, the staff was met with cancelled meetings; Meredith execs continuing to spout the same weak defense (“I don’t know what’s going on”); endless rumors and a continuing embarrassing lack of information and clarity. I can’t fathom the panic, uncertainty, and justified anger these workers must’ve felt yesterday and for the coming weeks and months as the transition from Meredith to TheMaven continues. What’s unacceptable and morally reprehensible is that management, from all of these stakeholders, have allowed for these workers to feel this way for quite some time and let them linger in a professional purgatory.
Unfortunately, the meetings were put back on the schedule and the layoffs resumed. A mix of Guild and non-Guild covered employees were told that yesterday was their last day at the magazine -- after being so vital in building the 65-year cherished brand. I could go into the various upsetting facts about this transfer, from the potential decimation of a beloved brand to a business structure that ostensibly builds up an underpaid shadow newsroom.
The SI job cuts top off a devastating week for media workers. But despite this week of layoffs and cuts, we saw a lot of solidarity across our industry. I was inspired, as many of you were too, by the actions of the Sports Illustrated staff yesterday. In less than three hours, nearly three-quarters of the staff stood together and fought back. They crafted a compelling petition asking Meredith and ABG not to cede control of the magazine to TheMaven before it was too late.
“TheMaven wants to replace top journalists in the industry with a network of Maven freelancers and bloggers, while reducing or eliminating departments that have ensured that the stories we publish and produce meet the highest standards,” the petition reads. “These plans significantly undermine our journalistic integrity, damage the reputation of this long-standing brand and negatively [affect] the economic stability of the publication."
Upon hearing of imminent layoffs, workers launched a Twitter handle, @SIUnited54, garnering support from journalists, readers, sports fans, and union activists from across the country. Though in the end the dismissals happened, but not without management hearing them. We all did.
We continue to see what happens when we fight together. We don’t win every battle, but we make it harder for management to simply roll over on us. We ensure that we are looking out for one another and calling out bosses and executives who are simply here to cash a paycheck. Amidst a day of chaos and layoffs, yesterday was an inspiring moment for our union and our industry as these journalists came together to loudly take a stand.
We’ve asked Meredith to extend the same hard won Guild severance benefits to all non-union employees who were laid off. We’re not done asking questions. We’re not done demanding better from Meredith, and we’re far from finished in holding TheMaven accountable for its actions.
While we weren’t able to stop this despicable purge, we remain Guild Strong.
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