The Great Media Hiring Thaw

“I think that this last recession is going to end up accelerating the migration to digital much more so if we hadn’t had the recession,” he said. “There is much more demand out there.”

Even at The New York Times, the changes are noticeable. In 2007, as fitting with the trend of everything media those days, Bill Keller announced the paper was in a hiring freeze. Fast-forward to the spring of this year, and though the same selective hiring strategy is in place, a spokeswoman emailed recently to announce that Bill Keller’s announcement is no longer applicable to this new and better day. “There is no hiring freeze at The Times,” said Diane McNulty, the spokeswoman.

It’s thawing! The paper certainly didn’t hesitate in stealing away Kate Taylor, an arts reporter who was at The Journal for mere weeks preparing for the April 26 launch of its New York section.

Even within the paper, The Times has undergone significant change internally—there are new department heads in Styles, Travel, National. While staffers over the past year have been cautious to move, shifts are happening within that insular little world on Eighth Avenue—new beats, new assignments, even if it remains the case that no one voluntarily wants to leave a job at The Times.

Outside of the city, the trend is the same. Bloomberg has been staffing up its D.C. bureau, bulking up its already sizable presence. Even the L.A. Times, that home of serial cutting, is hiring some reporters for its entertainment coverage. A spokeswoman for the paper said the positions for its entertainment section have been “backfilled,” so, yes, they’re just filling in the jobs that used to belong to others! But still, at least those jobs are being filled. Count Joy Press, most recently of Salon, as someone heading to the L.A. Times.  

When we chatted with several editors, reporters and recruiters in recent weeks about the sudden job market activity, they pointed to a few reasons. For one, there are new jobs! The economy, overall, is improving.

We also heard that it’s been about playing a little catch-up. Papers and magazines and Web sites cut back. While budgets are lower, advertising is inching back up. There are new budgets for 2010 that allow for a hire or a two, or at least for keeping the budget intact. And after 18 months of losing jobs, editors are exhausted at not being able to fill those positions.

Tony Ortega, editor at The Voice, who has hired four people in 2010 (replacing merely two!), said things “are definitely looking up,” with print losses beginning to end.

“It’s a new year and a new budget,” said Ms. Danziger, the headhunter. “There’s a renewed vision of what you want to do—a game plan of how you’re going to confront the marketplace. There’s renewed optimism to create a vision to be competitive.”

Ms. Danziger said she expects it to last throughout the year, and we hope so, too.

jkoblin@observer.com