Newsweek to lose 111 staffers

Film critic David Ansen to depart

Newsweek will lose 111 staffers to buyouts, including veteran film critic David Ansen.

The news weekly offered 146 staffers a handsome buyout package, which had to be accepted by March 25.

The offer was too good — including a sweetened pension, health coverage until age 65 and two years’ salary — for 30-year Newsweek critic and senior editor Ansen to refuse.

“It was a good deal,” he said. “They didn’t want me to leave, which put me in a nice bargaining position. They may have been shocked at how many people took the offer.”

While many of the 111 Newsweek employees who did accept the buyout will leave May 30, the 62-year-old Ansen negotiated to continue reviewing for the magazine until year’s end, at which point he will start a yearlong contract as contributing editor delivering reviews and longer features.

As Newsweek prepares to move its Manhattan offices downtown near Ground Zero, “Obviously, the climate at newsmagazines is not great,” said Ansen, “with more cost-cutting and more trimming.”

Ansen looks forward to writing books, teaching and “not going out to screenings every night,” he said. “I want to watch DVDs of movies I might actually like and read a book or two. Face it: A lot of movies are not that interesting to write about these days.”

The current harsh publishing climate has been hard on film critics. Some have retired, and some have been pushed out. Gone from newspaper staff reviewer ranks are the Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum, Newsday’s John Anderson, the Village Voice’s Nathan Lee, the New York Daily News’ Jami Bernard and Jack Mathews, the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Wilmington and the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Eleanor Ringel Gillespie.

“It is scary; they’re letting a lot of good people go these days,” Ansen said. “It’s like a return to the hard old days when I was growing up when anybody could be a movie critic, and they’d take somebody off the sports desk.” initially reported the Newsweek buyout.

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