Sports Illustrated was expected to begin layoffs as early as Thursday as the weekly tries to wring cost savings out of the organization. SI asked for volunteers about three weeks ago to avoid laying off up to 16 people, mainly in editorial. (The actual amount would depend on the salaries of the people who take the buyout.)
Only three are known to have stepped forward, though—perhaps not unexpectedly, given the weak job market and the fact that Time Inc. didn’t offer any incentive above the severance people would get in the case of a layoff. Two of the three are covered by the Newspaper Guild of New York, which represents editorial staffers at the print pub.
Controversy is especially swirling around the photography staff, which was expected to be hardest hit by the reduction. Time Inc. brass told the guild that up to five out of a nine-member photography staff could be laid off. Not only has SI long prided itself on its photography, but discussion of cuts is coming on the eve of one of sports’ biggest events, the summer Olympics. “There are nine photographers; they’re looking to lay off five,” said Bobby Townsend, local rep for the guild. “They may as well call it Sports Weekly.”
Further, there’s been debate about how much severance, which is based on length of service, the photographers are entitled to. That’s because shooters have only officially been part of the staff since 1998 but have worked as regular freelancers before that, according to Townsend.
An SI rep declined to discuss the process when contacted today. SI has described the reduction as part of a plan to reorganize staff around sports topics rather than media platform.