The Hollywood Reporter is preparing to lay off nearly 30 percent of editorial staff this week, while it and its sister publication Billboard are reducing print circulation.
Editorial director Matthew Belloni announced last week that he was leaving the iconic entertainment industry magazine following a series of clashes with the leaders of its parent company Valence Media, which is chaired by Todd Boehly, over the publication’s editorial freedoms.
Now, staffers are bracing for layoffs that multiple people familiar with the situation said will likely impact both The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard. THR’s layoffs are expected to number around 30 of its employees, and encompass staffers on the editorial team, including video, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. As of Monday morning, the layoff tally had not been finalized, the sources added.
The planned layoffs were first reported by The Wrap on Friday after Deanna Brown—president of MRC Media, a division of Valence Media founded by Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu—told some top staff to help develop lists for layoffs. Those with knowledge of the situation have told The Daily Beast potentially several dozen more people could be given pink slips across all of Valence Media, which includes Dick Clark Productions.
The cuts also come as Valence has scaled back the print circulation of both Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter. Multiple sources told The Daily Beast that Billboard has at least temporarily shifted its print publication from weekly to monthly, and THR will scale back its print frequency “sharply.”
Over the past several weeks, the company has refused to give staff a definitive answer about whether the publication planned to make cuts to the editorial team. A spokesperson for Valence declined to comment.
Following the economic downturn resulting from the spread of the novel coronavirus, employees have grown increasingly concerned over potential layoffs amid mixed signals from Valence higher-ups.
During a recent call with staff, Belloni asked Brown whether there would be layoffs. The CEO told staff at the time that although the company was evaluating a number of options, there were no specific solid plans for layoffs. But during a separate call several weeks earlier, Valence co-CEO Satchu said if there were going to be layoffs, the company would execute them swiftly.
The cuts come as the heads of Valence search for a new top editor for The Hollywood Reporter. During a separate call last week, Valence co-CEO Wiczyk assured staff that there would be a new editor hired or named by Memorial Day.
The company is exploring several options that have already raised eyebrows among insiders. According to multiple people familiar with the situation, the company has been looking at candidates including journalists and potentially non-journalists.
Staff have also been bewildered by the decision to push Belloni out during the middle of a pandemic. The CEOs said on a call with staff last week that the company had not intended to push for Belloni’s departure, but had accelerated the departure after journalists began to catch wind of the rift forming between the CEOs and the top editor. A number of THR staffers who spoke to The Daily Beast expressed anger at Belloni’s departure and commented that the publication was now a “rudderless ship.”
Multiple people with knowledge of the matter have told The Daily Beast that at least one senior executive from Dick Clark Productions had been “lurking” in THR’s newsroom-wide Slack channel raising fears confidential source information may have been compromised.
Hollywood insiders have also expressed dismay at the situation, with producer Lynda Obst tweeting: “Who let a movie company buy a trade publication? This is journalistic malpractice and we should all cancel our subscriptions this week. I am.”