Last week, the people behind GOOD -- a media organization dedicated to covering philanthropy and the people who work at "moving the world forward" -- laid off most of the staff that had been editing and creating content for the organization's eponymous magazine.
Now, print media layoffs are a fairly common (and depressing!) occurrence these days, but what was most striking about how GOOD handled the matter is that they seemed to be trying to set some sort of land-speed record for dickery.
The announcement that most of the staff -- including the magazine's much-heralded executive editor, Ann Friedman -- were being cashiered came the day after the same staff celebrated a launch party for their most recent issue, which did make it to newsstands. Later, the organization sent out a tweet, professing sadness that they had "lost great people." Sure. They weren't so much disposed of as they were tragically misplaced. From there, GOOD celebrated having notched their 200,000th Facebook friend by producing a video which contained testimonials from their staff -- including some of the people they'd kicked to the curb only days before.
So if the short-term goal was to sow a ton of ill will in as short a time as possible, then mission accomplished. We must never forget, however, that all of this tactlessness was done for a good cause -- GOOD says that they are taking a different path now, and want to become a "Reddit for social good."
Now, I do not know precisely what that means. And I have to imagine there are a number of Redditors who think that the "Reddit for social good" is Reddit. But the consensus speculation on the matter is that GOOD is scaling back on all this effort to publish a magazine in order to move to some new, off-the-shelf social media platform that harvests the good intentions of its network of supporters for cheap content to sell ads against. In so doing, GOOD will allow big brand names the chance to burnish their reputation by being associated with people who are "moving the world forward."
But if the treatment of their former colleagues gives one pause about whether GOOD is in this for the "good," consider the story of the one person from the magazine who was not cut adrift at the end of last week. Alysia Santo of the Columbia Journalism Review wrote:
The only editorial employee left now is the education page editor, Liz Dwyer. The education portal on GOOD says that the “page is sponsored by University of Phoenix,” so one could easily infer that’s why she was the one spared, though this could not be confirmed. Interview requests to upper management went unanswered.
Oh, well, allow me to do some inferring then!
Curious thing, this coincidence, where the one person who is sticking around comes to GOOD subsidized by the University of Phoenix, one of the most notorious predators in the subprime-education scam game. This is the organization that Bloomberg Businessweek famously caught recruiting students at homeless shelters, hooking drug addicts and the mentally ill into long-term loans they can't afford to pay off, while giving them substandard education and little personal support. The University of Phoenix is routinely under investigation, its officials frequently lie, and its only real success comes in the form of extracting taxpayer dollars from Congress and training up the next wave of people to execute this con.
In short, this isn't a brand with whom anyone sincerely interested in "social good" would want to be associated. But if you want to shine up the University of Phoenix's turd in exchange for cash money, that's a totally different story.
At any rate, it's going to be awesome to see what GOOD does next with their social platform, their Facebook pals and their commitment to better serving the needs of high-toned private education confidence men. Maybe next week, GOOD will create an awesome Pinterest page about all the ways the world is "moving forward" after the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, Education and Related Agencies slashes IDEA Part C and IDEA Part B special education funding.
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