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Rebecca Shapiro

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'Fired, Laid Off Or Pushed Out?' Now What?

Posted: 03/13/2013 3:58 pm

The past year in media has seen multiple anchor changes, masthead shake-ups and newsroom downsizing, inevitably followed by reports of intense and at-time nasty settlement negotiations.

While Keith Olbermann angles for his return to ESPN's anchor chair, the former sports broadcaster is embroiled in a major lawsuit with his previous employer, Current TV. The progressive cable network fired Olbermann one year ago, which caused the "Countdown" host to sue Current TV for $50 million citing breach of contract.

NBC's "Today" show is still reeling from ousting co-anchor Ann Curry last year. Reports of exit negotiations that occurred before Curry announced her departure on air painted images of heated settlement talks that lasted for more than a week, and contributed to what some still consider a serious image problem for the NBC morning show.

While on-air talent changes are fairly common in broadcast, recent months have been filled with layoff announcements at print, and even digital, news organizations.

"Workforce reductions and realignments are commonplace and have reached epidemic proportions in some industry sectors," writes employment law expert and attorney Jonathan P. Arfa in his book, Fired, Laid Off or Pushed Out? A Handbook of Strategies for Saving Your Neck When The Ax Falls at Work.

In December alone, 120 staffers were out of a job when News Corp.'s iPad news application, The Daily, folded. Newsweek started what many staffers expect to be a round of cuts as the publication moved to an all-digital format. The Cleveland Plain Dealer announced it would reduce its newsroom by about a third of its staff. And the New York Times revealed it would offer 30 buyouts to willing employees.

Unfortunately, layoffs did not cease in 2013. In fact, the news only seemed worse. The New York Post reported that Time Inc. was planning to slash 500 - 700 jobs in a wave of layoffs. Last week, Time Warner announced its plans to spin off the division by the end of 2013, highlighting the risks the magazine industry - and publishing business in general - currently faces.

On Tuesday night, Condé Nast chief executive Charles H. Townsend announced that Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour would expand her role and serve as the company's artistic director. Speaking of Wintour's new role, Townsend told the Times, "Without this statement, I fear we could end up looking more like Time Inc. I don't' want to look like a gray-suited business."

In an industry that is constantly adapting and redefining the way news is gathered and disseminated, what happens when an employee falls victim to one of these layoff announcements? According to one of New York's leading employment lawyers, a whole lot. And it doesn't have to be all bad.

"Well planned and carefully executed transitional management can be a 'win-win' for both you and your employer," Arfa writes in Fired, Laid Off or Pushed Out? "While it may be hard to see now, there is a light at the end of the transitional tunnel. In fact, once you arrive at the other end, you may well find that the transitional process - as terrible and unwanted as it was - has enhanced your ability to manage your career and left you in a better position to evaluate your worth in the market place."

 

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