I Watched the New York Sun Die

Remember this?

Three years ago I worked at The New York Sun as a producer of new media content. Sometime in early September I watched a bunch of senior staff meet in a room about 40 feet from my office. No one knew what the meeting was about, but everyone had their guesses. I wasn’t remotely ready for what my boss told me the moment he could assemble our team. The New York Sun’s investors were refusing to pay extra money for the year, and we were coming up short. As a result, we would be shutting down at the end of the month unless we found more investment. The president made the announcement to the full company shortly afterwards. We had hired a business writer a few minutes before the speech. She quit immediately.

What we needed, as a minimum, was an investor or a group of investors who would contribute $10 million per year, to be matched by the current group of investors. That would give us about $20 million, which is what we were losing. (Source)

For a month, I watched as our freelancers refused to write more any more stories. I watched members of the staff steal their computers, and claim dibs on buying liquidated computers from the company. Regularly, people stopped working throughout the day. No one had confidence that the company would continue. For the most part, we all started thinking about what we were going to do with our eight weeks of severance.

No one could contemplate how we were losing between $1 million to $1.5 million a month. Everyone pointed fingers to a degree. One of the VPstold me off-handed that maybe we shouldn’t have spent the money on my recording studio (total amount was less than $15k). The digital department pointed fingers at the reporters we sent around during the Presidential election season or the reporters in China for the Olympics. A few people blamed it on that nearly 100% of our circulation was given out for free, despite the $1.00 price tag on the newspaper. Someone came into my office and told me that he thought that if the newspaper would continue, it would certainly fire the entire digital team. No one was safe, but at the same time, no one cared.

If we had gotten investment on the last day possible, there may not have been a newspaper on the following day anyway. All of our freelancers had refused to write more stories and the reporters weren’t really looking for stories.

I wasn’t even in the office when the president announced the company was going to shut down. I was visiting my parents, and had taken the day off. I picked up the stuff from my desk the following Monday and started thinking about what was next.

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