HuffPost Canada abruptly shuts down with no warning to employees
Canada's beleaguered news industry just took another major hit with the surprise closure of HuffPost Canada — a nearly 10-year-old outlet based in Toronto and recently acquired by Buzzfeed.
The story of how this all went down is still playing out on Twitter as staffers reveal they had no idea they'd soon be out of jobs, or that the site they'd been working so hard on for so many years would be straight up killed.
And it was a vicious killing, according to those who witnessed it, with the final blow being handed down Tuesday during a company-wide digital meeting for which participants had to type the password "spr!ngisH3r3" (spring is here) to enter.
HuffPost employees, after a year of working through a pandemic that isn't over, were invited to a meeting today with the password "spring is here," where they were told 47 of them would be laid off. They would only know if they still had a job if they didn't receive an email by 1— Laura Bassett (@LEBassett) March 9, 2021
HuffPost Canada and HuffPost Québec have been shuttered completely (two weeks after filing for union certification, as some have pointed out.)
"As of March 9, HuffPost Canada will no longer be publishing content," reads a message currently displaying on huffingtonpost.ca.
"Existing content will be maintained as an online archive; however, certain site features were permanently disabled as of March 12. For more great journalism, please visit HuffPost.com. We are grateful for your support and readership."
A senior reporter at Huffington Post Canada tweets the end of the website which was news to her. Brutal. https://t.co/F2z0Stw8Rc— Tom Harrington (@cbctom) March 9, 2021
Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti also announced during Tuesday's meeting that 47 U.S. staffers would be laid off, and that emails would be sent out to inform affected employees that afternoon.
All the employees could do at that point was wait for 1 p.m. to roll around to find out if they still had a job.
The layoffs and the vicious way in which they were executed are sending shockwaves through the media industries both in the U.S. and Canada.
and now live to the Huffington Post pic.twitter.com/Q5RTR4Mn7C— nora (moroccan chaos agent) 🗳🎩🦑 (@wfaresquirrel) March 9, 2021
Launched in May of 2011, HuffPost Canada was the first international edition of what was, at the time, an industry-leading U.S. news blog.
All HuffPost properties were purchased by Buzzfeed in a deal with Verizon Media that was finalized earlier this year.
According to Deadline, Peretti told staffers that the layoffs were necessary to bring HuffPo back into the black after losing $20 million last year.
BuzzFeed made its layoffs a live reality show reveal. Staff were told 47 of them would be laid off, but they'd have to wait to find out if they were included. If they didn't receive an email by 1 pm then their jobs were safe.https://t.co/RbmcfBtVfg— Kim Bhasin (@KimBhasin) March 9, 2021
"Though BuzzFeed is a profitable company, we don't have the resources to support another two years of losses," said Peretti during the call, noting that the goal is now simply for HuffPost to break even in 2021.
"When BuzzFeed was losing too much money, we adjusted our strategy and our size," the new-media baron is quoted as saying. "It was difficult, painful work, but now we have a stronger business than ever before. We want HuffPost to be in the same position of strength and we will apply all that we’ve learned and built to get there."
This may be all well and good for Peretti (who, in fact, co-founded the Huffington Post alongside Arianna Huffington, Andrew Breitbart and Kenneth Lerer in 2005,) but it sucks hard for many talented Canadian journalists who suddenly don't have jobs.
This will be a thread featuring some of the talented journalists being let go today from Huffington Post.— Leah McElrath 🏳️🌈 (@leahmcelrath) March 9, 2021
Please feel free to reply if you want to be included.
"I joined HuffPost Canada five years ago and I couldn't imagine a more fun, supportive newsroom or better place to start my career. Shoutout to all my brilliant, clever, creative colleagues," wrote Ontario politics reporter Emma Paling of the layoffs.
"I'm proud of the work I did, especially at Queen's Park and on COVID-19 in long-term care. BuzzFeed has taken our homepage offline, but you can still read my latest story. It was an important one."
"I'm losing my dream job with my dream team after 8.5 wonderful years at HuffPost Canada," tweeted federal politics reporter Zi-Ann Lum. "BuzzFeed is shutting us down. It's a shitty situation, yes, but I'm also so thankful for the opportunity to learn, ask questions, and write stories."
I'll (maybe) have more to say on this later. But what I want to say on this right now is that I've been lucky to enough to work at a place for 9+ years that challenged me, made me laugh, made me want to show up each day ready to do more.— Rebecca Zamon (@RebZam) March 9, 2021
It is not yet clear if the impacted Canadian employees will recieve any sort of relocation options, though roughly 25 staffers (not including management) are said to have worked for HuffPost Canada at the time of its closure.
One former employee says that both HuffPost Canada and HuffPost Québec will be shutting down for good on March 15. The HuffPost Canada union confirmed on Tuesday that all staff members in Canada will lose their jobs.
"HuffPost Canada consistently punched above our weight and did vital, important journalism in Canada," wrote the newly-formed union in a statement. "We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in the U.S. and the U.K. who are experiencing layoffs of their own. It is a sad day for journalism."
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