MSM|August 25, 2011| Author: Kim LaCapria|Tags: ,

Slate Axes Jack Shafer and Three Others, Cites ‘Necessary,’ ‘Painful’ Cutbacks

Politics and culture site Slate is laying off four writers in a round of layoffs that came after the site dropped 13% in ad revenues in the second quarter.

Slate currently maintains a staff of about 50, and among the cut writers was prominent Slate columnist Jack Shafer. Shafer, who has been with the web-only outfit for 15 years, was made aware of the cuts Monday, ahead of the announcement today. The move sparked much outcry on Twitter among journalists, who were almost unequivocally shocked and dismayed at the move. Shafer echoed their sentiment when he commented on the decision during a telephone interview after the cuts became public knowledge:

“Everybody is replaceable… No one in this business is essential to the mission. Journalists sometimes forget that they don’t leave a legacy behind, they’re just replaced.”

He continued:

“I think anybody who is working at any publication during a time of a double dip recession and is one of the better paid members of the staff should not be surprised when this happens. I never thought I was immune to cutbacks.”

Slate Editor David Plotz commented to AdWeek about Shafer’s departure:

“The industry we’re in changes very quickly. This was a decision that made sense both financially and editorially. It was a painful decision for us. But it was a decision that we think — coupled with some new editorial and technological investments that we’re going to make — will pay off in the long run.”

In an interview with AdWeek after the news became public, Shafer joked about his future in journalism:

“I was thinking of becoming an alcoholic. Because one of the things I’ve always prided myself in, in these first 59 years of my life, is being a controlled drinker. I think now is the time to throw off the training wheels, and see if maybe in the last decade and a half of my life, I can be an accomplished, functional alcoholic. And that’s starting tonight.”

The loss of Shafer kind of eclipsed the other cuts at the site. “Chatterbox” columnist Timothy Noah was also axed from the site, as well as Juliet Lapidos and June Thomas. Slate’s publisher and general manager John Alderman denied the cuts were due to Q2 results, and were rather part of a long-term editorial strategy to keep the site profitable.