The Great Media Hiring Thaw

seiler cover ny observer web  The Great Media Hiring ThawIt’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.