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Just how broken is our political information ecosystem, anyway?
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Aug. 18, 2014, 4:52 p.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK: gawker.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Caroline O'Donovan   |   August 18, 2014

Gawker reports today that at least one Time Inc. property internally ranks — and fires — its editorial employees using a rather unethical calculation.

Based on a spreadsheet made available to the Newspaper Guild, it would seem that Sports Illustrated has calculated the worth of staffers based on categories including “Quality of Writing”; “Impact of Stories/Newsworthiness”; “Productivity/Tenacity”; “Audience/Traffic”; “Video”; “Social”; “Enthusiasm/Approach to Work”; and “Produces content that beneficial to advertiser relationship.” From Hamilton Nolan:

Anthony Napoli, a union representative with the Newspaper Guild, tells us: “Time Inc. actually laid off Sports Illustrated writers based on the criteria listed on that chart. Writers who may have high assessments for their writing ability, which is their job, were in fact terminated based on the fact the company believed their stories did not ‘produce content that is beneficial to advertiser relationships.'” The Guild has filed an arbitration demand disputing the use of that and other criteria in the layoff decisionmaking process. In a letter to Time Inc., the Guild says that four writer-editors were laid off “out of seniority order” based on the rankings in the spreadsheet above.

Time Inc. has recently laid off hundreds of employees and restructured internally such that magazine editors report to the business side of the company. Whether this rubric is actively used across other Time Inc. properties is unclear.

Plenty of media companies — Gawker included — measure employee performance based on how much web traffic their writing drives, but the values on display in the Sports Illustrated spreadsheet have left lots of media folks on Twitter feeling deflated.

Update: A Sports Illustrated spokesperson reached out to me with the following comment:

“The Guild’s interpretation is misleading and takes one category out of context. The SI.com evaluation was conducted in response to the Guild’s requirement for our rationale for out of seniority layoffs. As such, it encompasses all of the natural considerations for digital media. It starts and ends with journalistic expertise, while including reach across all platforms and appeal to the marketplace. SI’s editorial content is uncompromised and speaks for itself.”

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