Variety Cuts Full-Time Reviewers, Changes Pretty Much Everyone’s Title

Jim Romenesko posted an internal memo by Variety editor Tim Gray in which Gray informs staff that the magazine is poised to cut full-time reviewers, although it plans on making new hires.

Highlights from the memo include:

• Kirstin Wilder’s promotion to managing editor.

• Steve Gaydos will remain executive editor, but will have “features” dropped from his title to better express his expanded role.

• Chris Krewson and Leo Wolinsky will retain their new titles.

• Dana Harris is now editor of strategic projects and will focus on developing special content for readers behind the publication’s paywall.

• Carole Horst is now associate editor.

• Paula Taylor has been named creative director.

• Ted Johnson and Cynthia Littleton are now deputy editors.

• Terry Flores has been promoted to senior editor.

The memo in its entirety, including an explanation for cutting FT reviewers, is after the jump.

From: Gray, Tim M (RBI-US)
Sent: Monday, March 08, 2010 1:14 PM
To: Editorial Staff
Subject: internal memo, for Variety editorial staff only

Change is always scary, and at Variety, we have had a lot of changes in the past few years. But change is not always bad.

We are making further changes in the newsroom. We will post a story to the web, which the Dailies will run tomorrow. That’s to update the outside world. This memo is to give details to you staffers, and we will have a meeting this afternoon to address any questions.

Today’s changes won’t be noticed by readers. Our goal is the same: To maintain, or improve, our quality coverage. But internally, we hope the changes — which will include several new hires coming aboard — will make things more streamlined and efficient, will eliminate unnecessary work, and will increase coordination and communication in the newsroom.

I want to outline the new editorial structure, then give you some thoughts on the bigger picture.

The newsroom will be in four areas: reporting, web, features and producing (copy editors, paginators, art dept.). Note that I didn’t use the word “divisions.” Because we will continue to integrate, a process that began about a year ago.

This involves several title changes, reflecting shifts in roles and duties that have begun during this past year.

Kirstin Wilder will finally get her well-deserved title of managing editor. She will continue to make sure everything runs efficiently, to oversee production and finances, and to coordinate editorial needs/concerns at the corporate level. Several people will now report directly to her.

Steve Gaydos will keep his executive editor title but drop the word “features,” to reflect the fact that he is expanding his duties. Aside from maintaining his expert stewardship over VPlus, he will contribute to other growing areas.

Chris Krewson and Leo Wolinsky will obviously keep their new titles and duties. They have already devised ways to work more efficiently and effectively, on the web and in print.

Dana Harris’s new title is editor of strategic projects, developing special content for additional tiers of readers behind the paywall.

Other new titles: Carole Horst, associate editor; Paula Taylor, creative director; Ted Johnson and Cynthia Littleton, deputy editors; and Terry Flores, senior editor.

Maintaining their titles, but with increased responsibility, are Brian Cochrane and Pat Saperstein.

As for the bigger picture:

Reviews: We are not changing our review policy. Last year we ran more than 1,200 film reviews. No other news outlet comes even close, and we will continue to be the leader in numbers and quality. It doesn’t make economic sense to have full-time reviewers, but Todd, Derek and Rooney have been asked to continue as freelancers. And, of course, we still have great people on staff, including Justin Chang, Peter Debruge and Brian Lowry, who will continue their work as critics while performing their other key duties. And we will of course still use David Benedict in London and other freelancers.

Legit coverage: It’s part of our heritage, and we will naturally continue. But the recent readers’ survey reminded us that our approach to legit was a throwback to another era.

Since Variety is about business news, our coverage will be smarter, more geared for the industry and less consumer-y.

Variety restructuring: Last year, Neil Stiles and Brian Gott went to Amsterdam and met with other Reed Elsevier executives. Most said only 10-20% of their publications’ income came from subscriptions and ads. It’s a new world in the media, and it’s a new world at Variety. Our content will remain basically the same, but the financial structure will change. We’ve already started making money from the paywall, events and conferences, licensing, etc etc. While these are new areas, the primary concern is this: What can we give Variety readers that they need, and what can we do better than anyone else? Believe me, these new areas are not done lightly or arbitrarily.

Newsroom restructuring: Variety editorial is the engine that gives the Variety “brand” its credibility and importance. Don’t ever forget that. For the readers and advertisers who matter, we are still “the gold standard,” as one reader put it. That comment is both a pat on the back, and a challenge to continue at that level. We’re raising the bar on our coverage, to make it sharper. Nobody is asking you to work harder, but we all need to work smarter.

Reasons for optimism: The economy will bounce back. Ignore the bloggers (who obviously are trying in vain to steal our readers and our advertisers), ignore the obits for Old Media, ignore the negatives and the craziness that this economy has created. The people in the Depression bounced back, and so will all of us who are going through this crisis. I cannot repeat this often enough: Variety is in profit, which means we’re here to stay.

In conclusion: Call our exiting colleagues, just to check in. This is hard for all of us, but it’s harder for them.

Be sensitive to co-workers. Doom-&-gloom helps no one. It may make you feel better to talk about your darkest fears, but it might make them feel worse.

If you have questions, ask me. If you want to ask through someone else, anonymously, that’s fine. If I can answer the questions, I will, either individually or at the next editorial meeting.

You guys are doing great work. I am constantly impressed with your level of professionalism, hard work, ethics and good humor. As responsibilities and pressures have increased, you have all shown amazing grace. You should be very proud of yourselves. Which may be the most important paragraph here. (Oh, no, I buried the lede…)