Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Still More Troubles at Business Week

Good news and bad news at my long-suffering alma mater, according to Keith Kelly of the New York Post. Unfortunately the bad news outweighs the good news.

The good news is that investigations editor Paul Barrett is back. The bad news is that Mike France, a longtime staffer and now a senior editor for corporate news, is leaving to join a p.r. firm.

If that was the extent of the bad news, that would be terrible enough, because Mike -- like a lot of the recent departees -- was one of the top people at the magazine, a lawyer as well as a journalist.

And to be frank, I'm not sure how good the good news really is. While I like the idea of an investigations editor in principle, I have to wonder if BW really needs another top-level editor to further bloat its swollen upper ranks. BW used to produce a steady number of investigative stories without an investigations editor. I wonder if the money might have been better invested in giving reporters the time required to do investigative pieces. I have the same qualms about the top-level editor who was added to oversee features.

Kelly has further word on the generally crappy state of affairs at the magazine, and paints a generally discouraging picture. He reports (as I did a while back) that the magazine lost $20 million last year -- though not what I've heard from several staffers, which is that the magazine will be sold in four years if things don't turn around. Kelly reports that losses this year may be double that.

He also reports:
  • The new editor in chief, Steve Adler, has done an abysmal job of keeping his staff from being decimated by layoffs. "During his three years at the helm, Adler let go 25 editorial people in 2005, 18 in 2006 and seven last year." 25+18+7 equals..... ugh.
  • "'There's a lot of unrest inside,' said a source close to the situation." Surprise surprise.
  • The Washington bureau is down to five people, though Adler points out "The bureau was too big, in my opinion, and covering raw politics, in my opinion, is not in our best interest." (I have to agree with there. But five people????)
  • The magazine has been inundated with complaints about the new redesign.
  • "Overall circulation was up only 1.3 percent to 933,566, and some insiders think the number is dropping as core subscribers rebel against the new look and direction."
What I don't get is this: why not jettison the redesign? Business Week had already been redesigned up the wazoo during the earlier regime, and the general verdict seems to be the latest redesign was one redesign too many. It may be a good idea to admit that it was a mistake, and roll it back, before it's too late.

© 2008 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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