Pick a color! Red. Blue. Green. Unionize your media company.
January 28, 2019 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Do you still have a job at BuzzFeed? “For the last two years I’ve done nothing but write personality quizzes. My boss assured me that I could try other things within the department, but she was just laid off.”
posted by ocherdraco (45 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I like Buzzfeed News. I think their Japan desk (Japanese language) breaks some really great and important stories, and I have friends who work there. I haven't had the heart to see if they are still there.
posted by JamesBay at 10:57 AM on January 28


You’re being laid off.
As you may know, the company is going through some organizational changes and your position no longer exists. Thank you for your contributions to the company. You may re-apply to the position of “freelancer” at your earliest convenience.


hahahaha lolsob
posted by sciatrix at 10:58 AM on January 28 [12 favorites]




You Will Be nth Against The Wall When The Revolution Comes: a BuzzFeed Quiz
posted by gauche at 11:09 AM on January 28 [23 favorites]


“The weird tricks corporations use to avoid paying their fair share — #4,799 will not surprise you”
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:17 AM on January 28 [21 favorites]


I'm not sure how to season the popcorn I'm making. I hope there's a helpful quiz.
I feel like this isn't a derail but: buzzfeed can die and life will either get better or stay the same, right? Kinda like how we could probably kill anti-trust amazon? i'm not saying i haven't enjoyed it or cared about its writers. i'm not saying it isn't a brilliant marketing endeavor. but it's a marketing endeavor that eats content creators and bandwidth, right?
posted by es_de_bah at 11:47 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


They publish somewhat factual anti-Trump journalism, but you hate them for treating their workers like shit? Clearly you're just another hypocritical leftist.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:49 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Are there any jobs for writers and editors* that are still sustainable as long-term full-time employment, or is it all just pulling together freelance gigs in self-employment now?


*jobs for anyone, really
posted by nicebookrack at 11:53 AM on January 28 [7 favorites]


U N I O N
posted by The Whelk at 12:05 PM on January 28 [11 favorites]


SAD
posted by Pendragon at 12:21 PM on January 28


I've given up on editing, nicebookrack. I still feel sad about it and I still look for jobs now and then but this most recent go-round, there were about 5 open editing positions, 1 of which seemed like a good fit. I've pivoted to paralegal and I like it but I still wish I were editing. There were approximately 9 billion paralegal positions when I looked last fall.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:29 PM on January 28 [9 favorites]


Or you could, I don't know, stop giving BuzzFeed any clicks or engagements or ad revenue. At all. No matter how much they try and exploit what they did to their employees for additional attention.
posted by evilangela at 12:29 PM on January 28 [2 favorites]


It's a community post from someone laid off themselves.
posted by dame at 12:46 PM on January 28 [9 favorites]


You guys do realize that a union won't prevent layoffs, right?

A union collective bargaining agreement can determine rules for layoffs, such as severance, seniority, callback hires, hours reductions, etc. But layoffs and restructuring and buyouts will always be a Thing. Here's a recent example of a union newspaper shop.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:00 PM on January 28 [11 favorites]


You guys do realize that a union won't prevent layoffs, right?

A union collective bargaining agreement can determine rules for layoffs, such as severance, seniority, callback hires, hours reductions, etc. But layoffs and restructuring and buyouts will always be a Thing.


Yeah, that sounds like a step in the right direction.

I mean, health insurance won't prevent me from getting hit by a bus, but it'll help if it happens.
posted by entropone at 1:16 PM on January 28 [20 favorites]


While it’s true that the existence of a union doesn’t magically turn a company into a co-op or anything, it does tend to (a) make a company think about contingency plans for when things go wrong, (b) include the welfare of employees as a factor in those plans, and (c) make better long term decisions so as to avoid having to enact those plans. Union organizing isn’t a silver bullet but it does promote stability in the business world. A lot of white colar workplaces are sorely in need of it.
posted by Leeway at 1:29 PM on January 28 [12 favorites]


buzzfeed can die and life will either get better or stay the same, right? Kinda like how we could probably kill anti-trust amazon? i'm not saying i haven't enjoyed it or cared about its writers. i'm not saying it isn't a brilliant marketing endeavor. but it's a marketing endeavor that eats content creators and bandwidth, right?

Buzzfeed put energy and money into certain reporting that other outlets such as the NYT did not. Some of it was controversial, like the Steele dossier, but then other stuff was undeniably great, like an entire week of reporting for mental health awareness week. They were one of the few outlets that didn't succumb to both-sides-ism.
posted by tofu_crouton at 2:09 PM on January 28 [23 favorites]


Are there any jobs for writers and editors* that are still sustainable as long-term full-time employment, or is it all just pulling together freelance gigs in self-employment now?

There are jobs in the trades like this. Most of the people on the residential side (what most people are exposed to) are owner-operators or individual contractors, but the ones who do commercial and industrial work often have long-term employment. This is especially true for union folks—there are non-union shops that can be OK to work for as well (my shop is not a union shop, but it is employee owned) but in general I'd encourage aspiring tradespeople to join the union unless they want to work residential and be small business owners. Anecdotally, the union side of commercial construction also seems to be where you'll find most of the small number of women who work in construction, and almost all of the liberals.

I really would encourage anyone who likes to build stuff and fix stuff and make stuff to go into a trade. There's unions for carpenters and electricians and plumbers, sure, but also for machinists, painters, equipment operators, shipwrights, masons, ironworkers, and many others. Do your research and choose your trade wisely, but I really do think it's an option more people should consider.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:27 PM on January 28 [8 favorites]


A union might, for instance, have ensured that laid off employees got paid out their accrued PTO (given that few of them lived in states where that was a law, as it should be).
posted by jeather at 3:34 PM on January 28 [7 favorites]


You Will Be nth Against The Wall When The Revolution Comes

Well, I'd much rather be against The Wall than for it anyway.
posted by FJT at 4:18 PM on January 28 [4 favorites]


UPDATE: “After meeting with the BF News Staff Council today, we have decided to pay out earned and unused PTO and comp days as part of the severance packages for U.S. employees impacted by these layoffs in states where this is not required by law.” -
@peretti
posted by awfurby at 4:25 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


I really would encourage anyone who likes to build stuff and fix stuff and make stuff to go into a trade.

The last time the carpentier union here announced new apprentice slots they got something like 700 applications for five slots. People slept outside the office in tents in line before applications opened.
posted by The Whelk at 4:50 PM on January 28 [9 favorites]


Are there any jobs for writers and editors* that are still sustainable as long-term full-time employment, or is it all just pulling together freelance gigs in self-employment now?

There are, at the Washington Post, the Times and the LA Times. The rest of the industry as we know is experiencing some turmoil. There's a great Facebook group called "What's Your Plan B?" for journalists who are seeking to transition. It's tough.

I actually straddle journalism and content marketing. I'm self-employed and my marketing work subsidizes my journalism, although my digital marketing and marketing management skills make me useful to the journalism non-profit I have contracted for for the past five (!) years.

There is a lot of writing and communications work out there for journalists that pays better than journalism. It's just not journalism.

The only way forward for journalists, I think, is to be entrepreneurial and crowdfund. Canadaland is a successful example of this. Podcasts are really exciting as the amount of advertising aimed at that media channel is expected to grow over the coming three years.
posted by JamesBay at 5:12 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


In BC were I live there are not enough carpenters, joiners, finishers, plumbers, electricians... We're coming off a RE boom, and all three levels of government are planning major public housing projects. And, like Japan, Canada has an aging population and a labour shortage.
posted by JamesBay at 5:14 PM on January 28 [2 favorites]


That's pretty crazy, The Whelk. I looked into joining the local carpenter's union for Boston area a while back and it was basically a classroom where a union rep pitched the benefits of the union life and the carpentry trade to about thirty people at a go, and encouraged people to sign up and start their apprenticeships.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:15 PM on January 28


On the other hand, I've heard that if you want to be in the elevator union you basically need to have a blood relation in there and you need to wait for them
to retire or die before a slot will open up for you.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:16 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


That’s the doorman union here.

But let’s be open, this happened because leagacy media companies got bought by equity investors who thought they could make huge returns. It’s not enough that a company makes money, it needs to make more money then possible to be worth keeping, which is nuts considering that local journalism actually saves money by exposing corruption (no seriously, it’s like measurable) and the newspaper industry as a whole has suffered more of a percentage loss in workforce then the coal or steel industries since 1982.

I’m gripey, basiicslly all my friends are unemployed now, my unionization efforts feel under direct attack, and the skilled labor they produce is getting written off.

This sucks I hate it.
posted by The Whelk at 5:21 PM on January 28 [15 favorites]


Yeah, people talk about how journalism's business model is unsustainable in the modern era, but really what's happening is that plutocrats have been strip-mining the industry to line their pockets. It doesn't matter what your business model is if your owners are looking at the whole enterprise the way you or I might look at an old guitar that we're thinking of putting up on Craigslist for a couple hundred bucks.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:47 PM on January 28 [14 favorites]


I have been working as a writer/documentarian/geek to English translator since the 1980s. Granted, I’ve based primarily in Texas, with brief stints opening magazines in Europe, but I have never had the opportunity to join a union, or work at a union shop. I mean, there are professional groups which play at union activity, but it’s not like the teamsters.

I haven’t had a salary job in 15 years, despite being a knowledge expert in really obscure mainframes, and decades of experience as a high level document systems architect. I can charge obscene amounts of money as a consultant, but unlike men, grey haired women aren’t distinguished, they’re old, and contracts are getting harder to source.

I have created millions of dollars in value to companies for which I have worked, and in return, I have been laid off repeatedly, I have been offered less than market value in buyouts, I have had stock options disappear in IPO layoffs after working 80 hour weeks. One well known watch company laid me off after I was mugged and dragged behind a car, because two weeks recovery was seen as excessive. I have worked continuously since I was 15 years old, thru high school and college, almost 40 years now, and retirement is nowhere in my future plan. Americans can’t retire, because Billionaires need guest houses for their chihuahuas.

It is time to end the faux golden age. There is too much wealth and power consolidated into untouchable entities. Corporations, as they exist in law in the US, need to be eradicated, and reformed into something good for all, and not just stockholders and ceos.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 5:58 PM on January 28 [25 favorites]


Every three months update your resume, think about whether you're really getting what you want, think about whether you can get what you want for the next three months at your current job, and if you think you can't, try anyway while you also look for a job change. Repeat.
posted by davejay at 8:44 PM on January 28 [2 favorites]


I really would encourage anyone who likes to build stuff and fix stuff and make stuff to go into a trade

MICROSOFT CLIPPY: "It looks like you're searching for writing jobs. Would you like to try grueling skilled physical labor that requires years of training, contains high risk of serious physical injury, and is historically inaccessible to women/POC/disabled people/elderly people instead?" 📎

Sorry, I know I sound snippy. But on news stories about various creative industries being gutted by capitalism, in replies I see all across the internet and even on Metafilter, "Just learn a trade‼" is becoming the new "Just learn computer programming!!" rote response as the One Weird Trick that will solve everyone's job problems forever, as though for everyone working a trade is possible or accessible, let alone desirable.

Give up on writing and design and art! Your labor is only worthwhile if you are physically producing utilitarian stuff with your hands! (Unless you use computer programming. Computer programmers are automatically MILLIONAIRES, as long as you learned computer programming before everyone could do it and it became cheap and worthless, so now you should learn a trade)
posted by nicebookrack at 10:17 PM on January 28 [24 favorites]


Buzzfeed News Australia got laid off, and they definitely had a union. At least they're guaranteed a few months' severance so they're not going to be hustling to keep the lights on. It sucks, a lot, because they turned up to the sneers of the press gallery, and started getting scoop after scoop.

I hope they all land on their feet, because they all deserve to. Buzzfeed built the kind of media organisation everyone else envied, a digital-native org that had time to do important stories and big investigations, and they just... pissed it up the wall.

The pertinent question here is not whether the journalism model is broken. Buzzfeed proved that journalism still works. The fickle audiences supposedly uninterested in traditional reporting seemed perfectly happy to get it from Buzzfeed. The question is: who broke journalism, and why.
posted by Merus at 10:38 PM on January 28 [5 favorites]


It is great that the laid off staff will all get their accrued PTO because of all this bad press but I wouldn't want to bet on that for every big layoff. (Though really I think that this should be in law and not negotiated company by company.)
posted by jeather at 3:41 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


I was responding to the specific question of whether jobs that offer long-term stability even exist anymore. They do, but not as far as I know in writing. Sorry if that was unclear.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:17 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Also, not all construction work is grueling.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:17 AM on January 29


But on news stories about various creative industries being gutted by capitalism, in replies I see all across the internet and even on Metafilter, "Just learn a trade‼" is becoming the new "Just learn computer programming!!" rote response as the One Weird Trick that will solve everyone's job problems forever, as though for everyone working a trade is possible or accessible, let alone desirable.
Give up on writing and design and art!


Well, "learn a trade" translates into "learn something that isn't easily expendable, because people will always need mechanics and plumbers." Except a lot of people aren't smart enough to learn programming, probably especially people who write because I don't know of well, anybody who is well rounded enough to be a professional writer AND a programmer/scientist/techie whatever. Writing, design, and art are always the first and most easily expendable, layoffable jobs, which is why I no longer do any of that for a living and instead do something draining but probably won't be budget cut.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:40 AM on January 29


The thing about "learn a trade" is that it's viable for people for whom it's viable, but it doesn't create a system in which everybody is safe and secure. You can win the system - but the system will still be designed to produce losers. If everybody learns a trade, you can bet your ass there'll be a lot of underemployed plumbers.
posted by entropone at 7:47 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Except a lot of people aren't smart enough to learn programming, probably especially people who write because I don't know of well, anybody who is well rounded enough to be a professional writer AND a programmer/scientist/techie whatever.

This is what tech writers and science journalists and science communicators are for. My field produces a lot of the latter two and hopefuls for those jobs, and the hunger seems to be there for the content but the money isn't, as far as I can see.

People with experience integrating those two difficult things are still vulnerable because our expertise and skill aren't valued. Replacability isn't a panacea; if your skills aren't valued by the organization, some (many) orgs will send an untrained or undertrained junior person to do the job as shittily as they can get away with, and claim that they are passing the savings on to the consumer as they gut the enterprise for profit.

No one's work is irreplaceable if customers can be persuaded to trade good quality for crappy, and as fewer employees exist fewer people have the cash to pay extra for quality. It's a snake eating its own tail, especially if too many women are interested in doing whatever the task is (which tends to be followed by a certain lowering of prestige and pay).
posted by sciatrix at 8:07 AM on January 29 [7 favorites]


Talking about being laid off.
I received an email congratulating me on being promoted to a higher level of management (false positions just to enable higher salaries).
The next day I (and others) were made redundant.

It was a complete shock as the company was actually doing quite well. It turned out that it had been secretly taken over and our own personnel department had got wind of it and quietly upgraded everyone so the final salary redundancy payments were higher. They were very nearly taken to court over it.
That was one strange company to work for - my interview for the job took place over a game of darts in a pub, and a good half of the people in the department I was in were active MENSA dropouts that had formed their own group called DENSA
posted by Burn_IT at 8:25 AM on January 29 [7 favorites]


>>Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The: I'm sorry I snapped at you; I missed that you were responding to my own half-jokey "*jobs for anyone, really" aside and overreacted like you were bringing up trades randomly. That still does happen too often on "mass creative industry layoff of the day" stories, but you weren't doing it here. I apologize.

I went to college to train as a writer with the teenage hope that it was something I could do as a career, because it was the main thing I was good at and enjoyed, and I'm still in mourning for that life. I have so many great creative artist and writer friends and classmates who are unemployed or underemployed or in perpetual fear for their/our employment, and the only answer so far seems to be "live in fear forever because your jobs will always be precarious and your skills will always be disposable, or find something else to be good at and hope you discover a unicorn full-time job in that thing that pays you enough to live and leaves you with enough energy to do creative stuff in your leftover time on the side." Who can afford to risk your life or your family's life applying for creative jobs when you might be the next mass layoff any minute? Buzzfeed's Jobs section still has open positions even now.

And of course the answer of "you will always be disposable" isn't at all limited to creative fields, and that just makes me more sad for all of us.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:53 AM on January 29 [5 favorites]


Also, not all construction work is grueling.

You're a sparky, aren't you?
posted by JamesBay at 3:49 PM on January 29


Except a lot of people aren't smart enough to learn programming, probably especially people who write because I don't know of well, anybody who is well rounded enough to be a professional writer AND a programmer/scientist/techie whatever.

So actually I was once in editing and I have a handful of friends who were writers and editors and we've all become pretty successful programmers. In fact, I was just talking today with folks about how ex-writers and editors are great because their code is usually very comprehensible and well-structured. I am also an artist. (A code artist but also I paint sometimes.)

I totally get the resistance to the idea that "just learn to code" will solve everyone's problems. It won't. But code and art and writing aren't really opposed and just because you like one doesn't mean you are automatically ill-suited for the other. If you're interested.
posted by dame at 4:09 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


I would be if I had started at eighteen instead of thirty-two. I'm a site visit specialist for a solar company. I work with a lot of electricians though, yeah.

But yeah… electrician, plumber, equipment operator. They all pay fairly to very well and are not back-breaking. Plumbers get paid the most but also they get to deal with poop.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:27 PM on January 29


This interview with a 19-year-old woman who made some of Buzzfeed's most successful quizzes is fascinating.

It's only a matter of time before Jonah Peretti refuses to allow the word "SWEATSHOP" to be posted on the site.
posted by gauche at 6:41 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Does ‘Creative’ Work Free You from Drudgery, or Just Security? (NYT)

But “creative” is often a red flag, a signpost marking an insidious trade-off. A “creative” job listing may lure you to pursue your destiny, freed from old social strictures — but also freed from traditional benefits and security. For the privilege of doing “creative” work, we are asked to accept conditions of financial anxiety and precariousness that in previous times were unthinkable to the gainfully employed. “Creative” puts lipstick — or, more precisely, a pair of Warby Parker eyeglasses and a sleeve tattoo — on a pig. It dresses up a ruptured social compact, the raw deal of the gig economy, as bohemian freedom.

The struggle to make ends meet while making good work has long defined the existence of those who choose to live as artists. Today, countless freelancing creatives are tasting that desperation, often while doing “creative” grunt work for big corporations. The repercussions ripple through the economy and through personal lives, and, yes, sometimes they pop up on the internet. Caroline Calloway has been cast as a villainous “scammer,” but the truth may be more complicated. Like so many young people — like, for that matter, so many middle-aged people and senior citizens — she is navigating a system that promises rewards it cannot deliver to people with entrepreneurial spirits and artistic inclinations. The message we are sending to creatives is clear: It may not do much for your bank account, but your work will enrich you emotionally. Besides, shouldn’t you be grateful to earn any money at all for doing something you love — something creative?

posted by jenfullmoon at 1:50 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


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