What do you call it when a company lays off staff, invites them to reapply for new positions and then amplifies the staff roster as part of a new strategic push? Perhaps a layorestructuring? An amplayoreapp?
Whatever you call it, that’s what the CNN is doing to part of its digital politics operation. Just a few months before the midterm elections, the company is essentially eliminating a dozen positions; occupants of those slots may reapply for new positions; and the operation’s staff count will be greater when the restructuring is completed, according to Ed O’Keefe, vice president of CNNMoney and Politics and formerly of NowThisNews. As reported previously on this blog, CNN’s digital politics operation aims to double its staff as the 2016 presidential election approaches. “We are adding positions,” says O’Keefe.
The move, reported this morning by Capital NY’s Peter Sterne, is a signal that CNN is really, really dumping the Internet politics coverage that it has presented to consumers for years. A centerpiece of that approach is the Political Ticker blog, which is scheduled for a trip to the municipal digital landfill. O’Keefe calls that blog part of the company’s “commoditized” and “wire-like” coverage.
A three-headed plan will replace the existing, mainly text-based stuff, according to O’Keefe: a breaking news team, an investigative team and a video team that’ll be involved in customizing content for various mobile social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and others.
“It’s not as though we could take parts of an existing organization and reconfigure them to make something that is extraordinarily different from what we have now,” says O’Keefe. “What I guess I find a little ironic is this is precisely what traditional media is accused of not doing — seeing the future as it is rather than what it would like to to be, and proactively changing.”
Okay, but can’t the existing digital politics staff be retrained for the video-heavy work of the future? “I have no doubt that there will be members of the team … who will be coming back,” responds O’Keefe. “That’s why I have a hard time with the term ‘layoffs.'” Turning the operation upside down so close to the midterms puts CNN.com at a disadvantage, but O’Keefe says it’s a good time for any departing staffers to find work elsewhere.
To replenish its ranks, CNN has placed job announcements for 15 openings, with two more to come soon. It also recently hired away Rachel Smolkin from Politico to serve as CNN.com’s executive editor for politics.