My sense is that the reason so many people are so shocked and upset about the layoffs that claimed Jack Shafer, Tim Noah, Juliet Lapidos, and June Thomas’ jobs at Slate yesterday is not just that those journalists are beloved (and while I don’t agree with everything Lapidos wrote, I think her writing on friendships between men and women is significant and shouldn’t be forgotten). But I wonder if some of the shock comes from the fact that Noah and Shafer in particular were institutions, independent of Slate, and so the idea that Slate can fire them feels like a shock. There’s this idea in the age of new media that if you write a column or a blog under your own name, or if your brand is honed to a particular fineness, that you can never really be fired, you can just take your brand and your product somewhere else with you. It’s easy to think of Andrew Sullivan getting fired as a magazine editor, because it happened. It’s nigh-impossible to imagine someone firing Andrew and the apparatus he’d built up around him. I hope and believe that Shafer, Noah, Lapidos, and Thomas will end up fine, but their firings are significant not just for who they are, but for how it makes people feel about the power of brand and reputation in the age of Internet journalism.
A Quick Note On The Slate Layoffs