Sara Nelson Laid Off from PW

January 26th, 2009 · 11 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

According the rumor-machine (also known as the ”New York Times”), Sara Nelson has been “laid off” from ”Publishers Weekly”. Laid off is such a smarmy term. Why not just say “fired”? While PW has yet to comment, one could have seen this coming when Reed Business Information couldn’t sell itself. When times get tough and change is needed, it’s always a good idea to get rid of the forward-thinking, smart, connected staff first. It makes the inevitable shutting down of internal systems seem that much more, well, inevitable.

In many ways, PW is a relic of the past (just as ”Variety”, a Hollywoodland publication that has become a shell of its former self). I certainly couldn’t keep up with the weekly print issues, especially when it seemed I’d already read so much of the content online. Of course, for every wired, connected member of the publishing establishment, we still have one who isn’t quite up-to-speed on the various new ways of communication. Especially since those ways seem to be changing daily!

Sara Nelson seemed capable of straddling the two worlds. She seemed to understand the balance between traditional and new media. Her reported replacement, Brian Kenney, of School Library Journal, might very well have the same savvy, but to lose someone who so clearly gets it shows that Reed doesn’t.

For someone like Sara Nelson, who began as a reporter, this likely offers the opportunity to try new and exciting things. For a business like Reed, it’s like throwing in the towel. In order to become relevant in the new media world, you need people who are able to connect all the moving pieces. It would have been smarter — if Reed is planning for PW to remain a going concern — to take Nelson out of the editor-in-chief role and put her in charge of a task force focused on establishing the publication as a voice of the future.

Since Reed is laying off 7% of its staff and we haven’t heard anything official from PW as of this moment, I worry about the other smart, savvy folks who might be affected by this news. I worry about the people who still utilize PW as a key news source. I don’t, however, worry about Reed. This feels like bad management trying to salvage what’s left of itself.

File Under: Publishers and Editors

11 responses so far ↓

  • Lisa Hendrix // Jan 26, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Laid off may feel smarmy, but laid off and fired aren’t the same thing. Fired is when you’ve screwed up and they don’t want you any more, ever. Laid off implies that you’re not to blame and that they want you back as soon as they can manage it. Laid off looks better on a resumé and makes you employable elsewhere.

    That said, I do hope Ms. Nelson and the others released from PW/Reed land on their feet and continue to make the publishing world a better and more interesting place. Good luck to all.

  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 26, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Agree on the semantics issue, but it’s pretty rare that someone at Sara Nelson’s level will get laid back on once Reed gets back on its feet (providing Reed does get back on its feet). Of course, I once had a boss, in reference to the motion picture business, say “You aren’t anyone in this town until you’ve been fired at least once.” I think Sara Nelson and some of the others — they have good talent there! — will do just fine. Reed? Not feeling the love.

  • Kate St. James // Jan 26, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Maybe she was laid “off” the premises.

    I know, I know, baaaaaad joke.

  • Don Linn // Jan 27, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Amid Changes, Kenney to Lead ‘PW’
    — Publishers Weekly, 1/26/2009 2:40:00 PM

    And this, from today’s PW Daily, is what those in the biz call “burying the lede”:

    “BBrian Kenney has been named editorial director for Publishers Weekly and Library Journal and will continue to direct the day-to-day operations of School Library Journal. All three magazines are owned by Reed Business Information. The announcement was made yesterday by Ron Shank, group publisher of RBI’s publishing division. Kenney’s promotion came the same day that RBI announced companywide layoffs which were dictated by the downturn in the advertising market, the company said in a statement.

    Among those on the PW staff who are leaving the magazine are Sara Nelson, editor-in chief since 2005, and Daisy Maryles, executive editor, who had been with the magazine for more than four decades. Shank thanked Nelson for her four years at the helm of PW, noting that her “personality, talent, energy and insight will be missed.” Maryles, who began at the magazine as an assistant in the editorial department, has for many years managed the Bestsellers lists and also overseen the religion category coverage, both in print and online, as well as the Show Daily published at BEA.

    Shank said that while the business performed better in 2008 than in 2007, advertising support continues to decline. In promoting Kenney to the top spot at PW, LJ and SLJ, Shank said he was impressed by Kenney’s “outstanding grasp of the transitional challenges we face moving from print to online. His mission will be to speed up this process and elevate content quality for greatest exposure in new formats.””

  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 27, 2009 at 11:12 am

    I saw this today — it took PW a while to compose something to address this. It will be interesting to see how Reed handles these challenges overall, especially in light of the corresponding layoffs at Daily Variety. I think the PW audience is filled with tech-savvy folks, but there remains a large population who will be underserved if this transition isn’t managed properly. On the plus side, maybe they’ll find a way to fix the blurbs in their newsletters for blog postings. They don’t give enough info to entice me to click through —

  • David Thayer // Jan 27, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    It seems to me that Sara Nelson outgrew PW about a week after she took over.

  • Ken Arnold // Jan 28, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    This is such a sign of the state of affairs in publishing–another dinosaur caught in the tar pit. Don’t look back. The good people, on the other hand, need to be cared for by the community that will survive this current techtonic shift. Interesting that in the banking business the best people get millions; in publishing, we “lay them off.”

  • Jo-Lynne Worley // Jan 29, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Sara Nelson was the only reason I’ve continued my subscription to PW. Her thoughtful perspectives will be missed.

  • NUTRIENTSSUPPLEMENTS // Feb 2, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    I Offer my sympathies to her and hope she will find something better.

  • Whitney McKnight // Feb 23, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Where’d Daisy go? Anyone know?

  • Kassia Krozser // Feb 23, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Whitney, I was under the impression that she retired, but that might be based on faulty information. I have not heard about her surfacing anywhere. However, if you check the archives of the PW Daily email newsletter, they’ve been publishing new contact information for laid-off industry folks. If she’s provided that information, they’ll have it.