A Misplaced Conjunction Makes All The Difference at People

 A Misplaced Conjunction Makes All The Difference at <em>People</em> Last week, Time Inc. became the latest media company to announce a round of layoffs. The company, a division of Time Warner, is one of the world’s largest media companies, publishing titles like Time, People, Sports Illustrated and InStyle.

“Today we are beginning the painful process of reducing our global staff of 8,000 by approximately six percent,” CEO Laura Lang wrote in an email to staff. “I know the coming days and weeks will be hard and I want to thank you in advance for your patience as we work through this period.”

Nine of those positions were at People, the classy celebrity tabloid. The Times confirmed the figure, elaborating with details culled from a memo that went out from People editor in chief Larry Hackett.

“In a memo to his staff, Larry Hackett, editor in chief of People magazine, said that he was seeking nine volunteers to accept severance packages,” the Times wrote in a post on its Media Decoder blog. “According to the memo, he specifically was looking for three writers and six reporters or researchers to volunteer to take packages.”

But the memo, it seems, was inaccurately parsed by the Times. A tipster notified OTR that the paper had replaced a hyphen with an “or,” which makes a difference at Time Inc., it seems. At People, the title “reporter-researcher” refers to fact-checkers (a distinction that is further complicated by the fact that the checkers are listed simply as “reporters” on the masthead). But the paper of record erroneously reported that the memo specified that Mr. Hackett was looking to cut six “reporters OR researchers.”

In fact, the EIC is asking six fact-checkers from a 10-person department to take the voluntary buyout. And as we all know, failure to get enough volunteers inevitably leads to involuntary layoffs.

The deadline to take the buyout offer is Feb. 13, exactly two weeks from the announcement.

“If necessary, we will then follow the guild contract procedure for conducting involuntary layoffs in these guild categories,” Mr. Hackett added, referring to the Newspaper Guild, the union representing some Time Inc. employees (as well as many Times employees).

As any fact-checker could tell you, sometimes a misplaced conjunction makes all the difference. But if the Times is looking to beef up its fact-checking department, we know of at least six reporter-researchers who may soon be available.