It’s springtime, media New Yorkers! The trees are blossoming, the sidewalks are filling up with cafe tables and if you stake out just the right corner, you might spot the N.Y.U. track team racing shirtless up Broadway. (It’s not just what’s outside, either!) After what’s been an endless year for the city’s ink-stained wretches, there’s something thawing besides our grim winter: the job market.
For the past 18 months, this column has been home to a lot of unpleasant news. There have been layoffs, premature retirements, editors being forced out, newspapers and magazines closing. But in the past few weeks, jobs in media land, however limited, exist again. Journalists are moving from place to place. Media outfits are replacing people they’ve lost.
It may be a small boomlet, but for the first time in a long while, there’s a pulse in the New York journalism job market. “I would absolutely say that is the trend,” said Time Inc. human-relations guru Bucky Keady.
“I’ve certainly seen more revolving door stuff,” said Josh Tyrangiel, the new editor of Bloomberg BusinessWeek, who is keeping a careful eye on the market as he trolls for new editors and writers. “People are moving, and places that have people leaving are filling the slots.”
Much of this, of course, has to do with titans like Rupert Murdoch. Because of his imminent New York section for The Wall Street Journal, 35 new jobs have opened up in the city. The Journal’s poached talent from the likes of the Daily News and Newsday.
But there are other forces at work, too: Yahoo is hiring at least a dozen people to come up with original content. Bloomberg has been especially active in the market after cutting staffers earlier in the year. ESPN has opened a New York branch and has hired away some of the best print sports journalists in the city. Even The Village Voice has been hiring!
‘I can say our business is incredibly up,’ said headhunter Karen Danziger. ‘Just incredibly.’
Look at what’s happened in the city—and in D.C.—over the past few weeks. Michael Crowley has left The New Republic to go to Time. He’s on his way to Time, in large part, thanks to Karen Tumulty leaving Time to go The Washington Post. A rising star in mergers and acquisitions, Jeff McCracken, is moving to Bloomberg from The Journal! Sheila McClear, Gawker writer–turned–unemployed, has landed at the New York Post. Veteran Mets beat reporter Adam Rubin—the one whom Mets GM Omar Minaya outrageously accused of lobbying him for a job—left the Daily News to join ESPN-New York. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. (Click here for a list of more job moves.)
For those who kept a job during this impossibly difficult period, the utter lack of mobility was obvious—you never saw reporters abandoning one place to go to another. Now it is happening. But it has a caveat. “I’m not seeing growth,” cautioned Mr. Tyrangiel, the BusinessWeek editor.
That’s a vital distinction. Thousands of jobs have been lost in the past 18 months. Other than limited examples like The Journal and Yahoo, there are no indications that new jobs are flooding the market.
John Cook, who is leaving Gawker to go to Yahoo, emailed to say, “I don’t really feel like the generalized sense of terror and panic has lifted, really.”
Yet, there is, undeniably, more movement. Jim Romenesko, the media industry’s humble bearer of all good news and bad, said he noticed that his blog on the Poytner Web site has been stocked with transactional items these days. “It seems that in the past six or so weeks, I’ve posted an unusually high number of job changes involving staff from the larger papers and sites—WP, LAT, NYT, and Politico,” said Mr. Romenesko. “It’s nice, after reporting countless stories of people jumping to unemployment, to link to stories about people jumping to new—and often better—jobs.”
No one liked the unemployment stories! “Last year was miserable. Miserable!” said Karen Danziger, an executive at the Howard Sloan Koller Group, a media headhunting firm that does work for outfits like The Atlantic, the Daily Beast and Hachette Filipacchi. “I oversee everything we do on the content side, and I was spending some of my time not doing content searches. There wasn’t enough. Content was grim! There were so many people in the marketplace, and there really was less hiring than I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been doing this for 20 years.”
And now? “It’s night and day,” she said. “I can say that our business is incredibly up. Just incredibly. It’s an increasing rise in calls, real searches, accepted and signed agreements with clients. … It does feel like, ‘Oh my God, we are so busy with what’s going on here!’”
“Certainly our own business has gotten quite busy in the last three or four weeks,” said Jeff Lundwall, an executive at Mercury Group, a digital recruiting firm. “We’ve gone back to what feels like 2007.”
When we actually did see moves over the past year or so, it was generally tilted toward taking digital media jobs (hello, Gawker!). Mr. Lundwall said that’s just as active as ever, and he expects that to continue.
“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.