Few managers enjoy firing people, but at efficiency-obsessed AOL, layoff skills are apparently considered crucial: The internet conglomerate just dismissed a top editor for firing writers and then telling them they could write for free.

Patricia Chui, the editor who laid off writers in an email where she also said they would be "invited to contribute as part of our non-paid blogger system," has been axed, sources tell Kara Swisher at All Things Digital. Part of the reason was the email, which flew in the face of an effort by recently-acquired content chief Arianna Huffington to, as Swisher puts it, "return to journalism over more algorithmic content creation."

But Moviefone Editor in Chief Chui also had a strike against her for defending Moviefone after it asked a TechCrunch writer to go soft on a movie studio. Though she didn't write the original email, Chui wrote a defense that said, "Staying on good terms with studios means that we will relay information if asked."

After her more recent email was leaked, Chui rushed out another email defense to her writers, reprinted below. Apparently it was too little too late. Oh well; Chui can always work as an unpaid contributor.

From: Chui, Patricia
Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2011 07:06 PM
To: MoviefoneWriters
Subject: Update: Moviefone/Cinematical Writers Status

I wanted to clarify a couple of things about the email I sent earlier today.

During the AOL / Huffington Post integration, we've been trying to provide our writers with as much clarity as possible, via emails and conference calls, regarding the future of freelancers at AOL. I know there are a lot of questions, and we're doing our best to address them as best and as quickly as we can.

I especially want to clarify that we have not been asking freelancers (i.e., any of you) to become unpaid bloggers.

In no way did I mean to communicate that you were being asked to write for free, and I apologize for the misrepresentation.

As I mentioned in my email, conversations about freelancers are still ongoing. There may still be opportunities for people to write freelance for Moviefone and Cinematical, and I promise to keep updating you.


Patricia J. Chui

[Photo via Getty]