You might think snagging a Pulitzer nomination and being the head of one of the nation’s most prestigious critics’ organizations would lend you a little job security. You’d be wrong. The Star-Ledger’s Stephen Whitty, who is currently the chair of the New York Film Critics Circle, announced today that his staff position had been eliminated, though he will continue to write for the paper and its website, NJ.com, on a freelance basis. Parent company Advance Media, which eliminated 300 jobs in April, including 167 at the Star-Ledger alone. Whitty explained that his position was eliminated as part of that reorganization, with his staff job continuing through the end of the year, and a three-year freelance contract beyond that. “I [w]ant to emphasize I will continue to be writing for the Ledger and Advance’s other NJ and PA properties, plus nj.com,” he told Criticwire. “Film writer is just no longer a staff position.”
In a public post on his Facebook page, he wrote:
Just a short post to let you all know that, as of Jan 1, I’m going to be a contract freelancer with The Star-Ledger and njadvancemedia, rather than a staff member. What this means for me, unfortunately, is less money – but also more time to take on outside writing, teaching and speaking engagements, some of which I’ll be announcing soon. (I’m open to offers, by the way; let me know if you hear of anything interesting, at your place or somewhere else.)
But what does this mean to you?
Well, if you’re a reader who currently follows me in a New Jersey or Pennsylvania paper, or online at nj.com, you’ll continue to read me there (albeit a little less of me); you won’t see much different beyond my byline. If you were reading me somewhere else, that’s going to stop for now, but let your local paper (and me) know about it and perhaps we can fix that: I’ll be self-syndicating now.
If you’re a filmmaker or publicist looking for coverage, that continues; I’ll still be doing reviews, interviews, trend pieces and the various seasonal previews; please keep sending along screening invitations and notes on junkets and press days. (I will, however, be probably doing four or five pieces a week rather than eight or nine, and fewer reviews, I’m afraid, of the smallest releases.)
That all this is happening the same year I won a national press award, was nominated (again) for a Pulitzer and served (again) as chair of the New York Film Critics Circle is, I suppose, ironic. But I’ve always found irony to be a sort of pretentious big sister to sarcasm, and I won’t indulge in it.
I will, however, look forward to continuing to engage with all of you. Going forward, the best email for me is firstname.lastname@example.org (or direct mail me here or on Twitter). Please share this news with anyone who might be interested, and if we don’t speak before then, have a great holiday and terrific New Year.