Slate announced four big layoffs on Wednesday, the biggest of all being "Press Box" columnist Jack Shafer. Adweek broke the story of Shafer's sacking, and later confirmed two of the other layoffs: "Chatter Box" columnist Timothy Noah, and June Thomas, Slate's foreign editor. Slate's Dahlia Lithwick, in a tweet to her departing coworkers, confirmed the last layoff to be senior editor Juliet Lapidos. Shafer will "continue as a contributor for Slate," according to an email he wrote to Adweek. Shafer's last column, unless he gets a farewell post on Thursday, was posted on August 19, almost a week ago. Most of the attention following the layoffs is being directed towards Shafer's firing, and everyone is saying how dumb it is. Or, journalists are saying that anyway.
The American Journalism Review posted a glowing profile of Shafer Wednesday afternoon, just hours before news of his layoff broke:
As a media critic for Slate for the past 15 years, Shafer has written pungently, sometimes brilliantly, about Murdoch. His colleagues in the media criticism business love Shafer's jujitsu conference upon Murdoch the title of genocidal tyrant, a self-reference Murdoch once made when complaining of how he was depicted by the press.
Reuters' Anthony De Rosa tweeted, "I hope we hire Jack Shafer, cause somebody sure as hell will." Colleague Felix Salmon retweeted his support with a "+1."
The Daily's Hunter Walker called it, "the end of journalismism as we know it!"
The New York Observer's Foster Kamer said Shafer's layoff was, "the stupidest media move in recent memory."
Chris Hayes, of MSNBC, threw some love to Timothy Noah, "Timothy Noah is at the top of my list of Slate must reads. He countered the "contrarian" cynicism that threatens to swallow Slate whole."
Wired's Spencer Ackerman asked for a ton of money to start a news organisation so he could hire Shafer, and Slate's Dave Weigel tried to snip the money away from him so he could rehire him.
Weigel seemed the most broken up over the news. He tweeted he was going to, "drink enough Bourbon," so Shafer would still work for Slate. He then moved to hallucinogens so he could go back to working with June Thomas and Timothy Noah.
“The industry we’re in changes very quickly,” Slate editor Dave Plotz told Adweek. Shafer's been with Slate for fifteen years, if he was ever going to get phased out by the medium, it would have happened by now. The rest of his quote reveals what is likely the real reason, emphasis ours:
“This was a decision that made sense both financially and editorially. It was a painful decision for us. But it was a decision that we think—coupled with some new editorial and technological investments that we’re going to make—will pay off in the long run.”