In a season of media cutbacks, thus far the staffers at Slate have escaped the scythe. Editor David Plotz has made no layoffs, and is expecting none in the future.
Even more remarkably, Mr. Plotz is sending his writers out of the office to go work from home and pull together a big project and all the while still get paid for it.
Mr. Plotz has informed his staffers that they will, one by one, take anywhere between four to six weeks off, return home and develop a long-form feature for Slate, possibly incorporating multimedia for optimal Web presentation ("we’re not striving to recreate New Yorker features," Mr. Plotz said). They won’t be allowed to think about the horse race of daily Internet publishing. Editors won’t edit. Bloggers won’t blog. The big assignment can be 5,000 words—"It can be 100,000 words," he told The Observer. They can sleep till noon, close the blinds (or the neighborhood bar) and read all afternoon long, as long as they’ve got something to show for it at the end. They will continue to draw their regular paycheck.
"For Slate to be a great magazine, for us to be as good as we can be, it’s not simply enough for us to be responsive to the news of the moment," Mr. Plotz explained. "We have to do work with a longer time horizon."
The editor has reservations about the term "sabbatical"—all the work performed will be for Slate—and said the in-house name for the experience is Fresca Fellowships—an inside joke about how much Mr. Plotz adored the Fresca sodas that used to come free to the Slate offices, but have since been written out of the budget (hey, everyone gets hit these days somewhat). First to take the Fresca is senior writer Timothy Noah, who is doing a piece about why America hasn’t been attacked since 9/11. It will be out in a few weeks, Mr. Plotz said.
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