In early 2021, the Wall Street Journal ran a story titled: “Business Insider Did Nothing When the Pandemic Hit. It Worked.” The piece was about how the news and culture website, now known as “Insider,” had not laid off staff during 2020 despite the pandemic. Instead, it had gone on a “hiring spree,” adding 200 new employees that year, 130 in the newsroom alone.
But sources told Gawker that, layoffs or otherwise, many high-ranking employees left Insider over the past few months — enough people that the website’s Global Managing Editor, Jessica Liebman, sent a staff-wide email asking employees not to send goodbye messages to the company listserv.
One source familiar with the departures said some staff had gotten frustrated by micro-managing and a lack of organization that stemmed from the outlet’s rapid growth. Another source said there had been a “Great Resignation-type of thing,” where some of Insider’s writers realized they could only get more than a “three-percent raise” if they left for a different outlet.
The departures had been balanced out by new hires, the second source added. But it “felt like a lot of people were leaving,” in part because the resignations included some of Insider’s most visible writers, like senior reporter Kat Tenbarge, who left the site in December for a position at NBC. Other departures include: internet culture reporters Rachel E. Greenspan and Paige Leskin; enterprise editor Catherine Thompson; copy chief Daniel McMahon; and senior editor Benjamin Goggin.
Liebman’s “goodbye email email,” as one source called it, was sent on Dec. 3, after at least four farewell emails had gone out in a matter of days. In a copy of the message obtained by Gawker, Liebman acknowledged the recent email traffic (“If you’ve been checking your inbox recently, you’ve likely seen a few goodbye emails sent out in the last few days,” she wrote), and assured staff that they had no reason to worry. The company was “doing great.” The departure messages, she wrote, had come from staff “who were instrumental in [Insider’s] growth but who’ve decided to move on with their careers.”
That being said, we ask that should you decide to leave Insider, you consider refraining from emailing the entire newsroom. Closing a chapter in your career is always emotional, so please use your specific team’s listservs to share parting words and CC anyone you’ve worked closely with — your direct coworkers would definitely appreciate hearing from you.
But keep in mind that the @editorial listserv goes out to nearly 700 people across several continents! Be mindful of the hundreds of other Insider staffers who may not have the context around your departure, and may not be familiar with your work. Treat emails like a story: before sending them, ask yourself who the audience is, and address the messages to them.
Insider spokesperson Mario Ruiz attributed the email to the company’s recent growth. “Basically the newsroom has gotten big,” Ruiz told Gawker. As the company grew, he said, Liebman figured the emails were “getting a little out of hand,” since most of the people receiving them didn’t know the senders.
In her email, Liebman chalked up the departures to “the pandemic and hot job market,” which had made “a lot of people in different industries reevaluate their careers.” The turnover “is perfectly normal,” she concluded. “And for anyone who does decide to leave, you know we love our ‘boomerangs.’ ;)”
One former employee felt the resignations indicated a broader tension within the outlet. Management had reinforced that turnover was normal, they said, “and that we shouldn’t see departures as a reason for concern, even when it felt like they were happening in high numbers.” But the resignations weren’t limited to one or two teams; they were coming from all over the newsroom — “which to me,” they added, “indicates some cultural issues pervading at the company as a whole.”