11,027 media layoffs so far this year

Many more to come.

And just like that, it’s Friday.

This is the 60th edition of The Media Nut, and I am very thankful for all of you who are here. It’s also been 90 days since I was laid off by Adweek. I, perhaps naively, thought I’d land in a newsroom by now. Even as the pandemic rages on, the media industry continues, albeit a bit paradoxically. A small point of light in an otherwise dark time.

Bite one: Layoffs but also jobs?

Earlier this week, Vox Media sent a memo saying that it is laying off 6% of its staff, the majority of which have been furloughed since May.

“Our hope in May was that business would bounce back in the months that followed,” Jim Bankoff, Vox’s CEO wrote in the memo. “As we discussed in last week’s all-hands, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the second half of the year will not rebound anywhere near our pre-COVID forecasts.” 

Women’s Wear Daily reported this week on a survey from recruiting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas that there have been 11,027 media layoffs this year so far. For comparison, there were 4,087 in the first six months of 2019, a jump of 170 percent. 

It was also 116 percent higher than the 5,104 newsroom cuts announced through June 2018. That year’s full-year total of 11,878 was the worst year for newsrooms since 2008, when 14,265 newsroom cuts were made.

Vox wasn’t the only media company this week to lay folks off. The Guardian announced on Thursday that it’s cutting 180 jobs, saying it’s “facing ‘unsustainable annual losses in future years unless we take decisive action’ to reduce costs.”

In Bankoff’s note to Vox’s 1200 employees he said the company will be “reinvesting in our business and our people in ways that are critical to building the leading modern media company,” including reinstating full salaries (Vox implemented a tiered salary cut in May), but also “will be hiring business critical open heads in new roles aligned with our company priorities.”

A look at the company’s website shows 20 job openings across the company’s portfolio; interestingly, eight are for editorial and five are for product/technology. 

While media companies are figuring out how to claw out of the hole of the last four months, there’s a curious flip side: companies are hiring. Business Insider, for instance, has 98 open jobs; the New York Times has 133 even after laying off 68 people; NBC News has 26.

(And yes, I’ve applied to multiple jobs at all three companies; history has taught me to not hold my breath on getting an interview.)

Two things:
1. It’s tough to get laid off (as more than 50 million Americans can attest to) and even harder to see jobs open at your company after you’ve been told that your company can no longer afford you (and the gravest insult of all: getting laid off and then seeing your job posted). Media companies: please treat your employees with empathy during this time.

2. One of the greatest threats to our democratic ideals is the hollowing out of the journalism industry. As we discussed months ago, without reporters, elected officials and companies are not held accountable for the bad, shady and/or illegal things they do.

Bite two: The Great Twitter Hack

More than a day later, and we still don’t have many answers to Twitter’s hack from Wednesday.

  • Who was behind it?

  • Did they have access to DMs?

  • Why didn’t the President tweet at all yesterday/was his account compromised?

  • Why were verified accounts suspended but not all accounts?

  • Was the Bitcoin ploy a head-fake?

What we do know is that about 130 accounts—from Barack Obama and Joe Biden to Elon Musk and Bill Gates—were compromised in Wednesday’s hack that caused Twitter to lock down its verified users, preventing them from tweeting for a couple hours. We also now know that the hackers got $121,000 from 400 payments to three bitcoin addresses, according to CNBC.

Twitter said that this was a coordinated social engineering attack, which means that hackers managed to trick Twitter employees into giving access to the company’s back panels, allowing them to post on people’s accounts.

Variety reports that local and federal law enforcement have opened up investigations into the hack. 

NBC News has a good piece outlining how the biggest security threat to companies are its employees. 

And while the jokes flew on Twitter that “blue check mark” Twitter was sidelined (side note: Twitter’s verified users don’t have blue check marks, but instead are white check marks surrounded by a blue shape.) the implications of some very important people’s accounts being hacked are significant. 

At a time when the President of the United States conducts domestic and foreign policy via tweet, who knows what he/his team communicates in what they think are private DMs. 

"If hackers gained access to users' DMs, this breach could have a breathtaking impact, for years to come," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said in a statement reported by NBC News. “While it still isn't clear if the hackers behind yesterday's incident gained access to Twitter direct messages, this is a vulnerability that has lasted for far too long, and one that is not present in other, competing platforms.

Thank you for allowing me in your inbox every day for the last 60 days. If you have tips or thoughts on this newsletter, drop me a line! Or you can follow me on Twitter. Also, if you like this newsletter, please consider sharing it on your social channels and get your colleagues to sign up. Have a great weekend.

Scissor Sisters, “Take Your Mama”

Some interesting links:

  • The Sisyphean quest to bring back discontinued foods (Mel Magazine

  • These McClatchy financials are a window into how much damage Covid-19 has done to the newspaper business (Nieman Lab)

  • Slack is fueling media’s bottom-up revolution (Digiday)

  • A Media Critic Focuses on the Crisis in Local News (NYT)

  • Mandatory Mask Laws Aren’t Enforced as Coronavirus Continues to Spread (WSJ)

  • Everyone knew there was a Redskins story — but what was it? That’s when the rumors took over. (Washington Post)

  • Federal Law Enforcement Use Unmarked Vehicles To Grab Protesters Off Portland Streets (Oregon Public Broadcasting)