Valence Media, the corporate owner of the Hollywood Reporter and Billboard magazine, laid off several writers, editors, and its entire IT staff on Tuesday. But some workers apparently still had access to the company’s websites on Tuesday night. Billboard magazine’s website was vandalised with an image from the movie Animal House and a sarcastic message about the layoffs.
“In the wake of Covid19 pandemic, Valence Media has decided to lay off their entire web IT staff. Effective today,” the Billboard website read in a post credited to “devops.”
“The online Billboard Charts are essentially perfect, so IT staff are no longer needed. Fat drunk and stupid is no way to go through life…
The line about being fat, drunk, and stupid is a reference to the 1978 movie Animal House starring John Belushi. The photo accompanying the text shows a character named Kent “Flounder” Dorfman who was played by Stephen Furst in the classic slobs-versus-snobs comedy. Flounder, who has a 0.2 grade point average in the film, is told, “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”
The offending content has since been removed, but it’s still available to view via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, which periodically scans the internet to save copies of webpages. It’s not clear how long the Flounder content was up at Billboard, but it was gone by early Wednesday morning.
Valence Media made news earlier this month after the Hollywood Reporter’s editorial director, Matthew Belloni, left over a dispute with management about its coverage. Belloni reportedly butted heads with executives at Valence who wanted a heads up anytime the Hollywood Reporter covered a “sensitive” person or company. In one particularly egregious instance, executives tried to kill a profile of actress Louise Linton, according to the New York Times.
Linton is the wife of 57-year-old Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a Hollywood producer and prominent member of the Trump regime who’s now “one of the most powerful Cabinet members in modern history,” according to the Washington Post. Mnuchin is distributing the $US2.2 ($3) trillion in coronavirus emergency aid to individuals and corporations, often called the CARES Act, largely without any oversight. President Trump fired the watchdog who was supposed to oversee the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, without even giving an explanation.
Valence also owns brands like Vibe, Media Rights Capital, and Dick Clark Productions. More than 100 people have been laid off at Valence, roughly 30 per cent of its editorial division, according to CNN. In a companywide memo some of the cuts were blamed on “advertising market conditions” related to the coronavirus pandemic, but other cuts were supposedly part of a restructuring that had already been planned. Valence is also instituting pay cuts of between 15 and 25 per cent for anyone left making over $US100,000 ($155,287) per year and co-CEOs Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu are reportedly no longer going to be taking a salary.
The entire media industry is facing upheaval at the moment, with several newspapers and websites announcing cuts over the past few weeks. The Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune announced furloughs yesterday with managers taking a pay cut of 15 per cent. Vox Media, which owns the Verge, Eater, and SBNation, will reportedly furlough about 100 employees this week and writers at Slate also announced on Twitter that the news and opinion outlet was instituting pay cuts this week.
Fortune magazine also laid off roughly 10 per cent of its staff across all departments yesterday, according to the Wrap. The CEO of Fortune will be taking a 50 per cent pay cut and other executives will be taking about a 30 per cent cut, according to a spokesperson for the company who spoke with the Wrap.
And obviously it’s not just the media industry that’s suffering through the covid-19 pandemic. At least 17 million Americans have lost their jobs in the past three weeks, and that number is expected to grow. Stimulus checks are starting to reach Americans, with $US1,200 ($1,863) per person and $US500 ($776) per child coming as a one-time payment. But those checks are paltry compared to what American corporations are getting from Uncle Sam’s coffers.
The U.S. airline industry, as just one example, is getting a $US25 ($39) billion bailout that was announced yesterday, despite the fact that those same airlines spent years doing stock buybacks to artificially inflate the price of their own shares, making their executives even more money.
Everyone is in for a tough 2020. But with unemployment growing, it’s clear that this pandemic will be a lot tougher on average people than it will be on corporations.