The Atlantic Laying Off 68 Employees Amid Pandemic

David Bradley - H - 2020

"While these decisions are profoundly difficult, they have been made to ensure the long-term financial stability of The Atlantic," the magazine said Thursday.

Following mass layoffs last week at business publication Quartz (80 employees) and Vice Media (155 employees), The Atlantic announced plans Thursday morning to lay off 68 employees, nearly 20 percent of the magazine's staff, amid "the current economic climate."

Outgoing owner David Bradley told staff that the cuts are coming despite huge boosts in readership and subscriptions — 90,000 new ones — amid the publication's strong coverage of the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"The Atlantic's coverage of the global crisis has been unparalleled," the publication said in a statement. "Our journalists are setting the terms of the national conversation, and our readership has more than doubled since the start of the pandemic. We have signed up more than 90,000 new subscribers since March. But these crucial gains have not forestalled abrupt and dramatic losses in our advertising and live events businesses."

The cuts will most directly affect the magazine's live events business, "given the uncertainty about when in-person events will return. We are also making a number of reductions in our sales and marketing team; are closing our video department; and are losing a small number of newsroom positions."

The Atlantic is also enacting a temporary companywide salary freeze, along with pay cuts for executives. Bradley said this morning's memo was the hardest one he has written in his 22 years.

"There is no fault on the part of people leaving the firm," he wrote. "What makes this so particularly difficult is that these are exceptional and beloved Atlantic colleagues. They are exactly the same good people who were selected to join us at the outset. Measure for measure, they have contributed to The Atlantic as have those who are remaining.  It is only that the ground has shifted."

Affected employees will be notified by 11 a.m. E.T., Bradley said. "If you have not heard from your division leader by that time, your position at The Atlantic is secure," he said.

Those laid off will receive four months of salary plus two weeks for each year of service beyond the first year, along with health insurance for the rest of the year.

Laurene Powell Jobs' Emerson Collective acquired a majority stake in The Atlantic in 2017. In February 2018, The Atlantic announced an ambitious hiring spree, with plans to bring on 100 new staffers, representing a 30 percent boost in head count.