08/18/2014 12:09 pm ET Updated Aug 18, 2014

Time Inc. Now Judging Writers Based On Their Benefit To Advertisers, Because Life Is Terrible


When Time Inc. split off from Time Warner, its new CEO, Joe Ripp, announced that editors at the storied magazine company would begin reporting to its business side. This turn of events disturbed many people who were concerned about the potential weakening of editorial principles that such a move seemed to portend.

Ripp laughed off the suggestion, saying that the company would be "respecting our traditions enormously."

In June, Ripp told Bloomberg that the move was going very well:

They are more excited about it because no longer are we asking ourselves the question are we violating church and state, whatever that was. We are now asking ourselves the question are we violating the trust with our consumers? We’re never going to do that. But within the framework of that, my editors have much more freedom to think about how I can delight my consumers, how I can work with advertisers, how I can think through the problems.

Fast forward to Monday, when Gawker revealed that not only has Time Inc. been encouraging its editors to work more with business—it's also been judging them based on whether or not their content is helpful to advertisers.

The site obtained a spreadsheet showing writers for Sports Illustrated being ranked on the quality of their work, its newsworthiness and, chillingly, in the category "Produces content that [is] beneficial to advertiser relationship."

It's a good guess that none of the writers who joined Sports Illustrated did so to benefit advertisers.

But it gets worse. A representative of the Newspaper Guild told Gawker that Time Inc. actually fired writers in part based on the chart, meaning that they were let go in part because they weren't driving enough advertising through their work.

"Astonishing," "depressing" and "oh no" were three very representative samples of the reaction to this news.