There’s really no other way to say it: What’s happening at W Magazine right now sounds deeply fucked up!
The Condé Nast publication was abruptly sold last month to Surface Media, following the departure of its editor Stefano Tonchi, who was replaced by Leslie Moonves’s daughter Sara Moonves. Tonchi swiftly sued Condé Nast for breach of contract regarding his lack of severance, which reportedly matched his $800,000 salary. But now there are reportedly bigger problems facing about ten former W employees, who were fired by Condé Nast and not hired by Surface Media in the acquisition.
WWD reports those employees were asked to stay on after firings to keep working on the site and the new print issue. They did so assuming they would receive compensation for their work, but according to WWD, have received nothing for the work they did for Condé during this weird acquisition period. Surface Media says it’s Condé’s responsibility to pay them. W staffers were also reportedly told by Condé the morning of the sale announcement to Surface that they had to sign on with the new company in 24 hours and if not it was considered a resignation.
Ultimately 37 employees signed on, but the new owners also sound awful. Employees signed contracts that include a three-month period with zero benefits, paid time off, and further employment dependent on evaluations of their work. There is also this deranged set of “House Rules” employees must follow, WWD reports:
Beyond that, the contracts list 11 “House Rules” for working at Surface/Future that start with basic guidelines for informative magazine writing but quickly turn more prescriptive, with number three being, “The magazine is a commercial product; revenue comes first.” Number four: “The creative process is collaborative; management decisions are not.” Number five: “This is a drama-free office. Do not cause a scene or complain openly in the workspace.” Number six: “Get your job done without being told.” Some things that employees have been told: work starts at 9 a.m. and “Summer Fridays,” a longstanding tradition at Condé, are a thing of the past.
The rule to “not cause a scene,” which feels blatantly directed at women employees and seems completely arbitrary when it comes to exactly what a “scene” is, stands out. If what WWD reports is true, the magazine might as well have said, “we do not see you as humans and please do not act like you are.”
W Magazine is the latest women’s magazine to face new ownership and layoffs. Last week Bustle Digital Group bought Nylon magazine, intending to frame its print magazine around “special issues,” whatever that means, and a number of publications like Glamour, Teen Vogue, Redbook, and more have gone digital only.