So, soon after posting my last entry, I decided that the best way to show my support and love for the dozens of my co-workers laid off yesterday was not to scribble on my blog, but to actually be there with them.
I rode my bike from EA up to San Francisco, where a lively and active and drunken wake was in progress at Steff's Bar, the dive bar next to the (now former) Ziff Davis offices that has served as the go-to watering hole for years now. Some of those fired--like my good friends Ryan and Anthony--were not there, and knowing both those guys, I'm sure that hanging at a bar was about the last thing they felt like doing, knowing that they no longer held the jobs that they loved so dearly. But mostly everyone was there--both the fired (who were unceremoniously shoved out the door, with security guards present) and the "saved"--as well as a bevy of alumni who also came to show their support: Karen Chu, John Davison, Dana Jongewaard, Demian Linn, and many more. It's the one thing about Ziff Davis. No matter how fucked up and ill-managed of a company it was---and, boy, was it--they always managed to hire great people who stick together even years after their departure. Alumni of that company always feel the same bond. Maybe because it was so fucked up and ill-managed. Those who get out are kind of like ex-convicts--survivors who laugh and shake their heads at their former incarceration and feel for those left behind. Or maybe that's too dramatic and unfair. It's hard to say when it comes to something like layoffs. Emotions run high.
Which is why, after getting home from the wake, I got extremely upset when I read Sam Kennedy's "1up is Now Part of UGO" blog entry--which I'm not going to link to here because it doesn't deserve any more clicks. Now, Sam is an incredibly nice guy, one of those guys who never, ever has a bad word to say about anyone. He'd never write, for example, what I'm about to write. And there is no doubt in my mind that he's as bummed out as everyone else. He's in a horrid position here, having to put a brave face on what is an unequivocally ugly mess. So I wish no ill-will on the guy, and, more important, those following this story need to know that none of this is his "fault". All this shit happened way above him. He's just trying to make the best of a bad situation. And to that I offer him a heartfelt and sincere good luck.
Still. That blog post? Not a good call. It reminds me a bit of George Bush, to be honest, in its tin-eared, feel-good myopic offensiveness ("You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie!"). Yeah, he had to say *something*, but this wasn't the way to say it--not in public. I only want to comment on two lines:
"We’re still the same 1UP, and we’ll still be producing the same content...we always have"
Well, no, you're not, and no, you won't. You're not the same 1UP because you just lost a gigantic chunk of what made 1up 1up. It may go on, it may in fact produce great things, but it won't be the same. All that a company ever is is a mix of specific personalities. That's all it is. Period. When you remove people, it may go on, but it's never "the same." Saying it's the same is a disservice to all the people who just got canned. And, no, you won't be "producing the same content" because those responsible for some of the most popular and distinctive content--the 1up Show, the podcasts--no longer work there anymore. So, again, you can't say it's "the same". It's not. (And since everyone on the Copy Desk got canned, too, it won't be as well-edited, either.) Better to just acknowledge that, since we all know it anyway.
"...having the support of UGO and Hearst is probably the best bit of news we've ever had."
Again, no. If this can be called "the best news", I'd hate to see the bad news. In fact, it might be the best bit of news that you and the others who kept their jobs ever had, since you now don't have to be looking for work at the start of a new year, in the worst economic climate this country has been in in the last 80 years. For everyone else--both those who lost their jobs and those who followed their work--it's just about the worst news possible. I'll give you an alternate choice for "the best bit of news" 1up.com ever had: The fact that so many talented, creative, funny, dedicated people busted their ass at that site to produce content they believed in, despite the fact that they were chronically underpaid, chronically under-appreciated and lied to by an incompetent upper management (I mean the New York suits) whose shitty decisions led the company to ruin, and chronically treated--ever since the Ziff family sold the once-great company--like nothing more than numbers on a bleeding-red-ink spreadsheet. That's the best news you ever had. What happened yesterday? Yeah. Not so much.
In the cold light of day, though, another truth remains: All those still at 1up are still great writers and editors, and will, in fact, produce great things. You cannot underestimate the talents of Jeremy Parish, Thierry Nguyen, Scott Sharkey, and everyone else, and they deserve our support. I'm glad for all those who survived the cut, and will continue to read their work. And I wish Sam all the best over this difficult time of transition.
But since he's obviously hamstrung by having to put a happy face on this bloodbath, I'll just say what would have been nice to read, instead: "Our website is decimated. Our new owners failed to recognize the talent we had, which comes as no surprise since their own website values lowest-common-denominator pandering over quality content. We will do our best to do what we can, despite the fact that they gutted us. This fucking sucks."
Good luck, all. Those now looking for a job, you know where to find me for references, advice, and beer.