Leaving a Bad Vibe

What Everyone Is Talking About

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- There may be no perfect way to handle an ownership change at a magazine, but some of the surviving Vibe staffers are still crying foul over masthead changes being made by the new owners, who are poised to add their names and those of their new hires to the September anniversary issue -- on which none of them worked.
A compromise: Both editors names on the masthead.
A compromise: Both editors names on the masthead.

The latest version of the editorial masthead, for example, is set to list Danyel Smith, who was hired on July 5, as editor in chief and Mimi Valdes, who put the issue together and was fired by the new owners, as "departing editor in chief."

The business masthead lists the newly installed CEO and president at the top and relegates the just-ousted president to the very bottom of the page, beneath the copyright notice. It acknowledges the president who worked on the issue this way: "With Special Thanks To Kenard E. Gibbs."

The masthead has not been finalized or sent to the printer, so all this could change. Because Ms. Valdes and Mr. Gibbs could not be reached this morning, it is not even clear whether they care. And other fired staffers' names do appear as they normally would in any issue they worked on, contradicting a rumor to the contrary sweeping Vibe offices.

Eric Gertler, the new CEO, said every effort was being made to do to the right thing. "Danyel is a consummate professional who I have great respect for, and I know that she is sensitive to these issues, and we will handle this with great tact," he said.

But after yesterday's layoffs of about 20 people and last week's ouster of other top editors and executives, the grumbling around the office is that the new owners are being petty. While the world outside magazine publishing may see a masthead as a list of current contacts, insiders tend to view it as credit for work performed.

One publisher veteran outside Vibe said departures are always awkward, but rushing masthead changes is a bit tacky. "On the other hand," this person asked, "who looks at mastheads besides the people on them, their families and Ad Age reporters?"

And, well, maybe people looking to hire those who produced the issue -- which likely is why those now burnishing their resumes are so touchy about the subject.

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