It hasn’t exactly been a smooth transition for the staff of Us Weekly as American Media Inc. took ownership of the celebrity tabloid — and it shows.
The most recent issue features page after page of photo spreads of celebrities, and the cover story is a five-page round-up of diet tips pegged to bikini season. Even by the photo-heavy standards of celebrity tabloids, the issue feels remarkably light. Text is minimal and stories are little more than captions.
But if the magazine looks like it was phoned in, it’s no wonder.
Although AMI laid off 38 mostly senior staffers a week after agreeing to buy the title from Wenner Media for a reported $100 million back in mid-March, those staffers were not actually let go until this week, after the most recent issue closed. For just over a month, despite knowing that they were going to lose their jobs, the staffers had to keep up business as usual — coming into the office to put out a magazine and maintain the web site while the deal was finalized. “Everyone was paranoid that the deal would fall through and they wouldn’t have jobs or severance,” a source said.
Although it was never explicitly stated by higher-ups, there was general concern among those laid off that severance packages were on the line, an insider explained. On Monday, the day that the print magazine closes for the week, the laid-off staffers finally got an e-mail informing them that Tuesday would be their last day. It was widely expected that AMI would consolidate roles at Us Weekly with its existing stable of tabloid glossies, so the announcement that James Heidenry, the editor of AMI’s OK! and Star, would add the Us Weekly editor to his duties didn’t exactly come as a surprise.
Those laid off spent Tuesday finally saying their good-byes. “It was hard, it really felt like the end of an era,” said an insider. The remaining staff, meanwhile, is getting ready to move out of Wenner’s Midtown offices and head downtown to AMI’s headquarters.