I had no plans to turn this into a newsletter reacting to media horrors and atrocities but today I, unfortunately, bring you another edition of MEDIA HELLHOLE, an informal subsidiary of your usual pithy outcomes newsletter subscription.
On Thursday, a bunch of Bustle employees tweeted some news: their positions, many of which they’d held for years—an eternity in media time—were being eliminated. Just like that, the company had laid off at least 14 more editors and writers. Bustle Digital Group had laid off even more employees earlier this fall, stealthily making cuts across the company. But then and again today when I look at Twitter, where I follow a gazillion Media People who get rightfully and righteously fired up about every mass layoff in this industry, I....didn’t see many people talking about it. The people I did see making noise about it were other young women, amplifying each other.
You can correctly argue that “women’s outlets” are rife with issues—they contributed to, if not spawned, the exploitative personal-essay industrial complex, they hypocritically don’t live up to their own feminist ethos, their owners use women’s bodies as props in photoshoots. But somehow, the writers and editors for these websites, who are usually just talented young women making an honest living, end up bearing the brunt of the sins of management at these much-maligned outlets. It’s all the indignities of working for any other digital media operation with some misogyny—maybe from inside the company, maybe from outside of it—on top.
The women laid off from Bustle today worked there under frustrating conditions. I know this because a lot of them quietly expressed their frustrations to me after I quit my job at their parent company this year. Morale was low, and turnover was high—one former employee told me she saw the biggest period of turnover in the history of the company, including the departure of senior leadership. Some employees told me that they didn’t feel supported by other people in media because Bustle was often treated like an afterthought at best and a punchline at worst.
So please get angry about what’s happening at Bustle. The layoffs of smart young women doing their best at an often-derided outlet deserve just as much of your righteous outrage as every other fucked-up media layoff, mass resignation, and closure.