The Atlantic told employees Thursday that it was laying off 68 people, or around 17% of its workforce, amid the economic devastation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“This writing is hard two times over. It is the hardest writing in my 22 years with The Atlantic. And, for some of us, it will prove harder to read than for me to write. I’m very sorry that, through this memo, The Atlantic is announcing a layoff of 68 of our colleagues,” wrote David Bradley, chairman of Atlantic Media, in an email to staff reviewed by TheWrap.
He wrote that the Atlantic is “accelerating its turn to a consumer revenue strategy” and focusing on the premium and subscription services behind its recently-added paywall, but “the overnight and near-complete undoing of in-person events and, for now, a bracing decline in advertising” led to the cuts. Those laid off, accordingly, are largely on the events, sales and editorial staff teams.
Bradley also mentioned that the remaining 83% of Atlantic staffers face “some sacrifice” in the form of pay cuts for executives and no employee pay increases for the remainder of the year. Notably, the memo identified him as chairman and owner of Atlantic Media, which is minority owner of the Atlantic. The memo did not mention the Atlantic’s majority owner, billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs.
“Here, and at the close, I want to tell our departing colleagues how deeply sorry I am. If we saw any prospect that your jobs would return in a reset Atlantic, we would have found another way forward,” he wrote, going on to outline the severance package provided for the 68 laid-off employees and admitting he doesn’t know “what would be generous enough.” Each will get a minimum of 16 weeks’ salary, health care coverage through the end of the year, job search support and the opportunity to keep their work-issued laptop.
These job losses follow numerous layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs at other media companies over the past few months. Last week, Vice Media laid off roughly 155 employees in a second round of coronavirus adjustments. In April, Vice pushed back on a Wall Street Journal report citing leaked documents that suggested the company would see 300 layoffs in the coming weeks. At the end of March, Vice cut salaries for some employees, shortened employee workweeks and halted 401k contributions as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the American economy and, thus, digital advertising revenue.
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