“It’s a bloodbath.”
That’s how veteran film critic Todd McCarthy described the firings of more than a dozen writers and editors at The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday, just a day after parent company Valence Media axed staffers at Billboard and Vibe.
In an essay he penned for Deadline, McCarthy wrote, “Apparently if you make over a certain amount, you’re suddenly too expensive for the new owners of The Hollywood Reporter, which has recently been reported as losing in the vicinity of $15 million per year. Dozens are being forced to walk the plank.”
The cuts come a week after editorial director Matt Belloni abruptly left the publication, but said in a letter to colleagues at the time that his departure was “100 percent amicable.”
The highest ranking person axed on Wednesday is executive vice president and group publisher Lynne Segall, a nine-year THR veteran who began her career at the Los Angeles Times and Deadline. She’s credited with helping the magazine get the lion’s share of its luxury advertising, which it had very little of when she started.
The other staffers let go from THR’s editorial department reportedly include veteran senior editor Ben Svetkey, senior reporter Rebecca Sun, senior film editor Piya Sinha-Roy (who only started there last September), real estate and city editor Peter Kiefer, associate editor Lindsay Weinberg, editorial assistant Tara Bitran, and senior events editor Ramona Saviss. On the production side, Valence parted ways with veteran art production manager Michelle Mondragon, senior production manager Maya Eslami, and from the art department, photo editor Lisa Dragani. Video producers Marya Gullo and Natalie Heltzel were also laid off.
Major editors in the areas of film, television, style, and features were bypassed for cuts this week and seem to be keeping their jobs, although more cuts could be in the works if THR continues to lose money.
It’s been a dismal week for Los Angeles-based publishing. The Los Angeles Times furloughed 40 people, and also implemented pay cuts due to a decline in advertising revenue amid the pandemic. The paper has reportedly lost about a third of its ad revenue since the coronavirus quarantine began a month ago. The furloughed employees will be out at least 16 weeks, and it’s not clear what will happen to their jobs after that. Salaries for senior editorial and business managers were reduced by as much as 15 percent for three months. Only two years ago, the L.A. Times was purchased from Tribune Publishing by billionaire doctor Patrick Soon-Shiong.
Former THR film critic McCarthy finished his Deadline essay by praising the vision of former chief creative officer Janice Min, and wondering what happens next:
“Now it’s down to ground zero again, with owners of no journalistic background, cramped new quarters (which no one can enter anyway), severe staff contractions, enormous economic pressures and, for the moment, no new films being released or made. What were the bosses thinking when they gave me a raise last month? What on earth are they thinking now?”