Mark Schoofs and two other top editors are leaving the media company as it reports first earnings as public company
BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Mark Schoofs resigned from his job on Tuesday, as the media company reported fourth-quarter earnings and announced job cuts.
“After almost two rollicking and deeply fulfilling years as editor-in-chief, I’ve decided that it’s the right time to move on,” Schoofs told staff in an email Tuesday morning leaked by a BuzzFeed reporter and obtained by TheWrap.
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In addition to Schoofs, Deputy News Editor Tom Namako (whom Schoofs said in his resignation letter would’ve been his “natural successor”) and Executive Editor of Investigations Ariel Kaminer also announced plans to leave the digital site.
Schoofs announced that News Strategy and Operations VP Samantha Henig will be leading the newsroom while BuzzFeed searches for his replacement. BuzzFeed News Co-Director Jason Wells and Deputy Investigations Editor Alex Campbell will be running daily news operations.
“I have absolute confidence in these three outstanding people to guide our newsroom through the transition,” Schoofs wrote.
Schoofs also commented on the future for the the newly publicly traded company and the announcement of job cuts in the newsroom.
“The next phase is for BuzzFeed News is to accelerate the timeline to profitability and undergo a strategic shift so that we will get there by the end of 2023,” he wrote. “That will require BuzzFeed News to once again shrink in size. This is a business decision, and [BuzzFeed Founder and CEO Jonah Peretti] will tell you more about it at Brews.”
Brews is a regular meeting with editorial staff that will take place as planned Tuesday at 10 a.m. PT. Peretti and Henig are expected to address staff during the meeting.
Peretti also made similar comments to Schoofs’ in an email to staff Tuesday morning of his own, according to a BuzzFeed representative.
“Mark Schoofs is announcing his decision to move on from the company today,” Peretti said. “Samantha Henig, who many of you have worked with on the business side, will serve as interim Editor-in-Chief. She and I will talk to BuzzFeed News later today about our plans to position BuzzFeed News to thrive in the current media ecosystem, accelerate its path to profitability, and become a stronger financial contributor to the overall BuzzFeed, Inc. business. This means that BuzzFeed News will need to get smaller, which we have reached out to discuss with the union–and to prioritize the areas of coverage our audience connects with most.”
On the job cuts specifically, Schoofs said that the hope is for buy-outs over layoffs.
“But I can say this: We hope to reduce our size through voluntary buy-outs, not layoffs, and we have reached out to the union to negotiate buyouts,” he said. “Also: This is not your fault. You have done everything we asked, producing incandescent journalism that changed the world.”
According to Peretti on his first earnings call since taking the company public last December, the planned job cuts would represent 1.7% of the total staff (1,524 people as reported in the company’s January SEC filing) and will impact Editorial (BuzzFeed Video and Complex) and Integration (BuzzFeed and Complex’s administration and business organizations).
The editorial changes are occurring as the company reported a Q4 revenue increase of 18% to $145.7 million, reaching a total revenue of $398 million in 2021 in its first earnings announcement for quarterly and full fiscal year results since acquiring Complex Networks and trading publicly in December 2021.
New York City-based BuzzFeed was the first digital media property to go public. The company also acquired HuffPost in February 2021.
Read Schoofs’ full resignation letter below:
After almost two rollicking and deeply fulfilling years as editor-in-chief, I’ve decided that it’s the right time to move on, and Tom, who would have been a natural successor, has just accepted an amazing job offer elsewhere that will be announced soon.
From today until we name a new EIC, Samantha Henig will be leading the newsroom, with Jason Wells and Alex Campbell running the day-to-day news operation. I have absolute confidence in these three outstanding people to guide our newsroom through the transition.
We are also launching a search, internally and externally, for a new editor-in-chief to lead a new BuzzFeed News — one that will start out financially stable. Under Jonah’s leadership, the company has subsidized BuzzFeed News for many years. The next phase is for BuzzFeed News is to accelerate the timeline to profitability and undergo a strategic shift so that we will get there by the end of 2023. That will require BuzzFeed News to once again shrink in size. This is a business decision, and Jonah will tell you more about it at Brews.
But I can say this: We hope to reduce our size through voluntary buy-outs, not layoffs, and we have reached out to the union to negotiate buyouts. Also: This is not your fault. You have done everything we asked, producing incandescent journalism that changed the world.
I know this is a lot to take in. But during this interim period, the newsroom is in excellent hands. Sam is one of the most wise and creative leaders I’ve ever worked with. Before joining our newsroom, she was the editorial director for audio at The New York Times, where in three years she built, from scratch, the Times’ podcasting business and helped create The Daily. Here at BuzzFeed News, she has been a true partner with me in running the newsroom, involved in every major decision. She was the lead person in shaping our revenue strategy, bargaining with the union, overseeing Operations, working with Sara in her oversight of the Rocket Squad, and so much more — including, together with Ginny, leading the newsroom between Ben’s departure and my arrival. I feel so lucky to have worked side-by-side with her, and I know she will do an exceptional job.
With Mary Ann on leave, Jason oversees our largest team, Breaking, and has edited our exclusive coverage of abuses in Hollywood — including Krystie’s dynamite reporting on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Dr. Phil Show — as well as our unparalleled immigration reporting by Hamed Aleaziz and Adolfo Flores. He’s known for being direct and no-nonsense both on the page and off, and he led our Los Angeles Bureau and kept spirits up through the pandemic and several office changes. Also, he’s got a great wardrobe.
Alex, our unflappable London Bureau Chief, is a phenomenal reporter and editor. His explosive series on laws that imprison battered women led to one of those women walking free, and together with Katie Baker, he wrote a jaw-dropper that changed Maryland’s rape law. He has edited some of our highest-stakes investigations, including Megha’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series, as well as breaking news that erupts before the US team signs on. And he has led the entire London crew through tumultuous changes and the pandemic.
Alex and Jason have already worked together, most recently on Chris’ coverage of Ukraine. And their geographical locations — Jason in LA and Alex in London — will give us smart and steady editorial leadership almost around the clock.
Sam, Jason, and Alex will have critical partners in this transition period. Karolina will continue to play her invaluable leadership role in the newsroom and running of our Culture team. And Sam is promoting Eva to be a core member of the leadership team.
Ariel has committed to shepherding the biggest stories that Tech and Investigations have cooking, but has made the decision to move on after that. She’ll have more to share on that soon.
This is, of course, a tremendous amount of change. It’s wrenching. But I know, in my bones, that Sam, Jason, and Alex will guide BuzzFeed News through this transition with exceptional skill and empathy.
With a smaller newsroom, there will be a shift in our editorial focus and structure, which Sam will lay out at Brews. Sam and Tom have been working on an editorial plan for a smaller BuzzFeed News, and if Tom hadn’t gotten his new opportunity, which has been in the works for a while, he was planning to stay on and lead this new vision. The new plan will emphasize one of our core strengths: providing fast, accessible, and authoritative coverage of the nexus between the internet and IRL. Pound for pound, BuzzFeed News is the best newsroom in America, and the people who stay will do terrific work.
We will be offering voluntary buyouts to anyone on Investigations, Politics, Inequality, or Science who has worked here for at least a year and who decides it’s time to move on. We will be reaching out to the NewsGuild to discuss this proposal, and will share more details with everyone as soon as we are able. It’s important to know that you will have time to think this through: After we settle on a buyout package, you will have more than a month to decide whether to take it.
If you want to discuss the possibility of a buyout, feel welcome to reach out to Sam or Tom (or your union rep). We won’t be able to advise you on whether to take it, of course, but we can talk with you more about the new vision for BuzzFeed News so that you can see if it feels like a fit.
The last two years have been the ride of a lifetime: COVID, a racial reckoning, an insurrection, furloughs and workshare, our first Pulitzer Prize, and more than 7,000 stories spanning everything from the hottest celebrity news to the deepest investigations to war coverage in Ukraine. Through it all, this newsroom has consistently punched way, way above our weight. I would love to celebrate the work of each and every one of you, but that would make this a very long email, and you know how I feel about length. But there are so many brilliant stories we’ve published — stories that exposed corruption and abuse, that changed lives, that bore witness, that made people laugh, that captured the zeitgeist. Our journalism is our finest achievement, and I’m immensely proud of your work.
In addition to our journalism, a major focus for Sam, Tom, and me was the business side. With the help of people across the company, BuzzFeed News has made strides in the right direction — we lost less money in 2021 than we did in 2020.
More importantly, working with the Biz Org and Finance, we have put in place many of the building blocks that the company will use going forward. We’ve created a dynamite Health Team, which is providing readers with reliable and accessible information while creating a fertile environment for advertising and commerce. We’ve doubled the size of our Celeb reporting team; because their journalism is so far ahead of their competitors, they drive a staggering amount of traffic. We also have an exciting new editorial product that’s not yet public but that we’re already pitching to advertisers. All this, along with other initiatives, will help BuzzFeed grow its revenue.
Also, beginning last year, we worked with the Biz Org and HuffPost to consolidate our business development teams so that they provide support across both BuzzFeed News and HuffPost, and so that we can learn from HuffPost’s business success. This plan is fully operational now and will be a big help.
We have a strong Product, Design, and Engineering team supporting BuzzFeed News that wasn’t in place when I arrived, and they are building a faster, smarter BuzzFeed News product for our users. And I’ve been impressed by BuzzFeed’s new COO, Christian Baesler, and our new CRO, Edgar Hernandez, both from Complex.
I wish everyone, on both the business and editorial sides, nothing but success.
Finally, I’m proud of how we improved our internal newsroom culture. We’ve become more diverse, tripling the percentage of people managers who are BIPOC, and increasing by 50% our promotions of BIPOC staff. We’ve put a major focus on mental health, bringing in compelling speakers and trainers, and contracting with CiC to provide journalist-specific counseling and peer support for our newsroom and HuffPost. We have a superb mentorship program, and we’ve instituted a vibrant new training on our standards and ethics to make sure that our journalism stays rigorous and powerful. And with our union, we have reached 20 tentative agreements. These accomplishments represent the work of all of us, and I’m grateful to each of you.
Most importantly, we’ve shown, time and again, that we care about each other. I know that will carry us through the weeks ahead.
To help ensure a smooth transition, Tom will remain on staff through April 8, and I’ll stay on through the end of April. Both of us are happy to talk with you one-on-one.