With Tumblr Manifesto, Newsweek.com Staffers Fight For Survival

When it was reported by The New York Times Saturday, word of Newsweek.com’s demise was news to the website’s staffers. Though many on the embattled magazine’s masthead have become used to receiving close-to-home information in such a way, the fact that their jobs could be at stake — just hours after a successful merger inspired the first notes of confidence in weeks — caused online staffers to take action.

They made a Tumblr.

“The thing you have to understand about Newsweek is that it would only be fitting that its Website would be the first to go,” reads the post on savenewsweekdotcom.tumblr.com. “Like most print publications, Newsweek magazine has been led by people who deep down don’t understand the Web, and because they don’t understand it, they fear it and don’t value it.”

Sources told The Observer that the plea is a collaboration between former and current Newsweek staffers, not just the work of one person. 

The post goes on to list the reasons why the award-winning site should not be eliminated and folded into the Daily Beast, as Stephen Colvin announced it would be. He told The Times that Newsweek.com will redirect users to TheDailyBeast.com.

The post, the only one currently on the Tumblr site, has inspired several impassioned arguments in its defense and generated over 180 notes.

There have been a few developments since the Tumblr post went live, but the fate of the website is still up in the air. A tweet from Tina Brown may have been intended to cauterize the flow of negative responses, but its phrasing is more enigmatic than reassuring. “Woah! Newsweek.com’s superb content will live on under its own banner & in URLs on the new site. Not shutting down, combining,” the message read. The discrepancy between “its own banner” and “URLs on the new site” has befuddled some, including Reuters blogger Felix Salmon. He asked for an English translation.

The creators of the Tumblr site aren’t the only staffers asking the new management to consider the website’s accomplishments. The Observer received a memo from Susanna Schrobsdorff, editorial director of Newsweek Digital, that generously expounded upon the accomplishments of the online team. She apologizes for not having updates regarding whether or not they will keep their jobs, but said information is hopefully coming soon.

The full memo is below.

—– Original Message —–
From: Schrobsdorff, Susanna M
Sent: Mon Nov 15 07:38:02 2010
Subject: For dotcommers

Hello everyone,

I was intending to write up a memo today about a number of staff changes and promotions, but obviously a lot has changed in the last few days.  I know that the press reports about the future of Newsweek.com are much on your minds. And I wish I had some definitive information for you, but that will hopefully come soon.

In the meantime, what I can do is thank you for the superhuman effort you’ve put in to maintain our traffic at an enviable 8 million unique visitors/month during this wrenching period of transition. You’ve had to earn every single reader the hard way competing for space on news portal front pages with web organizations many times our size from the New York Times to NBC.  You should be incredibly proud of the fact that the web-exclusive content you create above and beyond what we publish from the print magazine, accounts for about 60 percent of Newsweek.com’s page views. This means that our tiny staff of fewer than 30 editors, writers, producers, designers, photo editors and video producers and technologists has an audience of more than 3 million unique visitors a month. Those numbers are a reflection of  your dedication and talent.

More astonishingly, you’ve continued to do all this against all odds persevering through a staggering number of management and technology upheavals and the loss of a huge percentage of our staff. Even your desk locations have been subject to near-constant change. A lesser group of people would have started phoning it in by now. But instead you’ve continue to produce stellar, original reporting and multimedia journalism that brings in award after award up to and including this month when we took first prize for multimedia from the New York Newswomen’s Club for a package about how your looks and your age affect your career.

 I’m not surprised. This resilience is part of our DNA. Newsweek.com has always had the blessing and curse of operating under the radar within a large print organization. It has allowed us the freedom to pursue stories and projects just because we thought they were a good idea.  But because the magazine’s quest for a new identity has taken up most of the oxygen for the last few years,  it has sometimes felt as if the work we were doing on the web was invisible.  And certainly we haven’t always been able to display our work the way we’ve wanted to. But as the numbers show, what we’ve done hasn’t been invisible to millions of readers who chose Newsweek’s well-reported stories and gorgeous, smart galleries over and over again. Nor is our work invisible to our peers who’ve granted Newsweek.com dozens of prestigious awards over the last 6 years including multiple National Magazine award nominations, New York Press Club awards and other accolades for original reporting, photography, interactives and video. We were the first magazine to be nominated for an Emmy for the 2008  “Voices of the Fallen,” videos about the families of soldiers lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And this year, our stunning San Joaquin photo essay project about   California county that was ground zero for that state’s recession, took a whole raft of prizes as did our 2010 Year in Rewind minisite.  Our photo galleries continue to amaze and delight readers with gorgeous photography like these stunning photos of old Russia which raked in 70 million page views. And, our cutting edge Tumblr blog has won widespread praise has become a trendsetter for old media looking to expand their reach with social media.

The good work continues. Last week, we published an outstanding web-exclusive, multimedia Veteran’s Day package exploring the bewildering link between PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury among our combat vets. The original photography, article and videos were both moving and significant in advancing this important story. This worthy work found an audience online of more than 2 million and it attracted advertisers too. This is what we do best.

Whatever comes next, I am very hopeful that your considerable talents will be valued and deployed on behalf of the company’s new venture.   I know that anyone who’s ever been part of dotcom is blown away by the rare alchemy of friendship and creativity we have in our newsroom.  We hear it every day from our  alums. No where else have I seen the kind of unconditional support and non-competitive cooperation you offer each other daily and I’m convinced we’ve continued to work so hard for each other as much as for the paycheck.

So thank you for all the days you’ve checked your BlackBerry from 6am till midnight, for all the weekends you’ve put in to make sure the award-winning projects we’ve created are written, produced, arted, designed, edited, and distributed on time. Thank you for staying up late to cover elections, for thinking of creative and honorable ways to meet the never ending pageview commitments, for the  cookies, for your unshakable humor and for making sure we have enough alcohol to cope with whatever new hit the day brings. I’m incredibly proud to be your colleague.


In no particular order, some of our greatest hits for anyone who hasn’t had a chance to see them.

Valley of Shadows: The roots of much of California’s financial tangle are in the San Joaquin Valley. How it became the state’s (and perhaps the nation’s) economic ground zero.
This was the first project for which Newsweek.com’s photo team  was able to commission a photographer. It won numerous journalism awards and represents the some of the best Newsweek coverage of the recession on and off line.

Voices of the Fallen: Letters from fallen soldiers read by family members.
This heart-wrenching documentary produced  was the first news magazine produced video to get an Emmy nomination.

America’s Best High Schools: The List
This list and the accompanying photo gallery of the top 20 high schools is the single most successful product launch in Nw.com history with a record-breaking 21 million page views the first week for the package and ongoing monthly pvs. Of 300-500k.

The Beauty Advantage
From sexism, to ageism to looksism, a special report on how your looks affect your career.
This striking package was produced this summer  recently won first prize for best multimedia from the New York Newswomen’s Club.

What You Missed: Midterm Election in 7 Minutes

Our  funny original video round up of the midterm elections in 7minutes  fantastic and will win awards no doubt.

Fighting for Themselves
How a new  generation of wounded warriors are remaking their lives.

100 Places to Remember Before They Disappear
This blockbuster interactive and photo gallery series is one of the single most successful products we’ve launched. We partnered with the publisher of a book of the same name and produced this series of galleries that got massive traffic—30 million and counting. The mag also printed  a special issue of these photographs, not sure how that has sold.

2010: A Decade in Rewind.
This massive mini site with dozens of video, interviews, photo galleries, lists, etc., was a huge endeavor, perhaps too much content was created, but it got lots of awards and buzz.

In Revolutionary Color:  Russian photos taken 100 years ago look as if they were taken yesterday.
This gallery gotten more than 63 million pvs. Originally published on our old site design, we found people went through this gallery several times luxuriating in the images.

‘The District’   A satire of Obama’s first days in office modeled on an MTV reality TV show http://www.newsweek.com/blogs/pop-vox/2009/02/02/aerial-shots-blank-stares-quot-the-pussycat-dolls-quot-small-screen-bliss.html
This went viral and got tons of press.

Generation Diva: What our obsession with beauty is doing to our kids.
This heavily researched interactive and related stories and photo galleries got us simultaneous spots on the network morning show (The Today Show and CBS) as well as millions of pvs.

The Case Against College Athletic Recruiting: U.S. universities are misappropriating resources on sports—including obscure ones.
This piece, one of the first on the new education vertical, got half a million pvs and hundreds of comments.

Blood in the Water: To some Christian fundamentalists, the BP oil plume in the Gulf of Mexico heralds the apocalypse.
A great uniquely Newsweek web column from Lisa Miller that got lots of pickup.

Octomom Hypocrisy: 4 reasons Nadya Suleman drives us crazy, and why we’re wrong.
In the massive glut of Octomom coverage in 2009, this got millions of pvs and hit the top of the SEO charts in Google. 700 comments. Originally packaged (pre site redesign)  with a related photo gallery that got 6 million pvs: History of Multiple Birthshttp://www.newsweek.com/photo/2009/01/29/photos-a-history-of-multiple-births.html

Lies of Mass Destruction: The same skewed thinking that supports a Saddam-9/11 link explains the power of health-care myths.
The amazing Sharon Begley who writes covers stories for the mag and is consistently in the top three most-read authors online.

Gay Seniors: Invisible and Overlooked
An award-winning series on older gays and lesbians in America.

A Tragedy That Won’t Fade Away: When grisly images of their daughter’s death went viral on the Internet, the Catsouras family decided to fight back.
An interesting look at an ethical  dilemma wrought by the internet.  Tons of pvs on the story and the related photo-gallery. Hundreds of comments.

When A Young Mother Dies: Why the sudden loss of Natasha Richardson struck such a chord.
Quick reaction on a national moment–  a celebrity death — netted us 2.5 million pvs—a lot for a non-gallery. Plus 600k views on the accompanying video.

2010: The Decade in 7 Minutes

Straight Into Compton
How the nation’s murder capital got its groove back.

Mind of the South — Election ‘08
This is one of a 12-part series where son of the South Christopher Dickey traveled through the region gauging whether it would embrace a black president. It was a cover story; online we produce photo galleries as well as an interactive map of his journey where people could watch with the videos. (The interactive hasn’t yet been imported into the new CMS)

The Crunch: Tales of the Recession http://www.newsweek.com/video/2008/05/08/the-crunch-crisis-in-our-backyard.html
Business and Financial Emmy Nomination for the series.

Garage-Sale Masterpieces: The rare finds of a collector who’s spend decades scouring garage sales for stunning photography.
9 million pvs and counting.

Susanna Schrobsdorff

Editorial Director, Newsweek Digital 


With Tumblr Manifesto, Newsweek.com Staffers Fight For Survival