Business Insider has told staff that news will no longer have a separate editorial team as it faces a backlash over the announcement of up to 70 jobs being cut.
The business, news and life divisions are merging following the 8% cut to headcount announced on Thursday.
Employees have hit out at the manner of the cuts however, with more than 80 journalists voicing concerns on an internal Slack channel. They say management has broken a contract it struck with the union last year which said unionised staff should have at least 22 days’ notice before having to clear their desk. UK staff have a consultation period under their statutory employment rights.
A memo distributed following editor-in-chief Nicholas Carlson’s address to the newsroom late on Thursday said the unified news, business and life team will be led by former business division head Matt Turner, who has been promoted to Business Insider’s deputy editor-in-chief. The two video teams have also been merged.
“These consolidations and our smaller staff size greatly reduced our need for managers, which is why some editor roles have been eliminated today in the US,” the memo added.
A spokesperson for Business Insider’s NUJ chapel said six editorial roles in the UK are under consultation. They added that all those roles are occupied by women or people of colour.
In a statement issued subsequently, the chapel said it was “concerned about declining mental well-being of journalists, many of whom no longer feel they can trust leadership has their best interests at heart”.
Business Insider’s mass market business model ‘is now broken’
Several staff told Press Gazette that the cuts were a surprise. One person familiar with the company said they believed Business Insider has had to move away from general news coverage for commercial reasons.
They said the company has “this model where the more journalists you hired, the more audience they attracted and the more money the company made. But a big chunk of that model is now broken”.
The model still works “on the business side, because there are clients who still want to advertise next to tech and finance news.
“So you can see the logic of what they’re doing – the whole ‘We’re Business Insider again, we’re gonna concentrate on tech and finance – that’s where the money is.”
More than 80 staff fume at management over system shut-outs
Laid off Business Insider employees were informed their laptop and email access would be shut off from 4pm EST/9pm GMT on Thursday. In the half-hour preceding that deadline, more than 80 journalists posted on Slack tagging in members of management and calling on them to observe a 22-day notice period for unionised staff agreed in the June contract with management.
“We specifically negotiated for a notice period before layoffs – not payment-in-lieu of notice,” one employee wrote. “Locking our colleagues out of their work laptops while they’re still employees violates that contractual obligation. Some employees are out sick. Others are on leave. Do not lock any of my colleagues out.”
Another posted that it was “particularly important to give journalists time to close up shop, as the work is sensitive and relationship-based. Do not lock them out of email and deprive them of that important process”.
Most of the posts were made over the course of five minutes, and many were essentially copied and pasted copies of one another. Several charged that it was “unacceptable” to lock the journalists out of the system and called on Business Insider to let them “leave this company with dignity”.
One staffer who was about to be locked out posted saying they had been “in an anxious scramble since learning I was among those laid off this morning. Please at least allow us to continue to access our laptops while we work through this painful transition”.
Another posted asking that they be given extra time to retrieve personal materials from a company drive, including photos and videos of themselves with a now-deceased parent.
In a statement, the Insider Union said it was “appalled” at the cuts, saying it was “disgusted that management has chosen to do this while Axel Springer is reportedly able to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars of dividends to their investors…
“Well-resourced journalism is vital for workers everywhere. As always, we will fight for our members, in service of our collective vision of a better workplace and industry.”
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