Thursday, December 02, 2010

Fact checking remains a priority, says Reader's Digest EIC Goyette

Reader's Digest, which this week laid off its entire staff of researchers and fact checkers (8 positions in all), remains committed to the fact checking rigour for which the publication has always been known, according to its editor in chief, Robert Goyette. 
"We remain as committed to fact checking as we ever were," he said in a phone conversation. "These are activities that bring value to the readers and we still value them highly." The difference now is that the magazine has made a business decision to save money by outsourcing fact checking and research to freelancers rather than having full-time staff doing it.
He said he was very sensitive to the uncertainties this would bring to the lives of those losing their jobs, but hoped to negotiate some degree of stability for some of them in terms of a guaranteed number of billable hours during a transition period. 
He also said that RD has recruited freelancers who are familiar with the magazine's standards and expectations and that the work would go on, regardless.
Reader's Digest magazine is effectively the last holdout in the broader company, where book publishing and other magazine titles such as Our Canada and Best Health already outsource fact checking and research.
A story about the layoffs on Mastheadonline quoted Goyette:
“We are shifting to a variable cost model,” he says. “With the old model we had permanent employees which had downtime after the issue closed and then were rushing to get it out in the last few days. Now it will allow us to better adjust the resources. It is based on a cost model which has been proven at other departments in the company, including Our Canada.”
This provoked a number of angry anonymous comments:
  • "What every salaried professional longs to hear: 'Goyette says he hopes most of the affected staff will stay on with the company as freelancers.' "
  • "I started my magazine career as a Reader's Digest fact checker and do not remember having much down time. In my experience, as magazine's staffs and budgets shrink, editorial staff do not have enough time, let alone down time. Why do management always keep their jobs while jettisoning the people who do increasingly more work with fewer resources?"
  • "Variable-cost model?! Don't you mean the no-cost model? No cost for medical. No cost for dental. No cost for pension. No cost for long-term disability. No cost for life insurance. Aren't there laws against firing your staff then hiring them back on contract for less?"
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fact-checking AND Copy Editing departments were abolished. Not sure how familiar the new (or not-so-new) freelancers will be with the magazine's standards and expectations, though, considering everyone who had experience and know-how and a true stake in the mag's success (i.e., full-timers) is now in line at the EI office. Whether the work will go on, the world certainly will, with or, more likely, without Reader's Digest in Canada.

1:01 am  

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