Staff ex­o­dus hits S.F. Mag­a­zine

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - KATH­LEEN PEN­DER

Most of San Fran­cisco mag­a­zine’s small ed­i­to­rial staff gave no­tice or quit their jobs this week.

The monthly pub­li­ca­tion won a pres­ti­gious Na­tional Mag­a­zine Award for Gen­eral Ex­cel­lence this year. I tis owned by Mod­ern Lux­ury of At­lanta, which pub­lishes more than 30 other city mag­a­zines in­clud­ing one in Sil­i­con Val­ley. The com­pany also pub­lishes wed­ding and in­te­rior de­sign ti­tles.

Ear­lier this month, staffers in San Fran­cisco were told there would be un­spec­i­fied bud­get cuts and that the mag­a­zine would be­gin shar­ing con­tent with other Mod­ern

Lux­ury ti­tles. “We hadn’t done that be­fore,” said Lind­sey Smith, the mag­a­zine’s as­so­ciate ed­i­tor. Smith said she gave no­tice Thurs­day and is leav­ing at the end of next week to pur­sue a free­lance ca­reer.

Se­nior ed­i­tor Scott Lu­cas said on Twit­ter Thurs­day that he will be leav­ing when the De­cem­ber is­sue is fin­ished.

Erin Fe­her, style and de­sign ed­i­tor, posted on Face­book Fri­day, “I QUIT MY JOB. Like box-up-my-desk-and-bounce-kinda quit.”

Jodi Nakat­suka, photo direc­tor, said she re­signed Fri­day. Ar­ti­cles ed­i­tor Ian Ste­wart con­firmed that he also gave no­tice.

For­mer staffers be­lieve only two full-time ed­i­tors will re­main, in­clud­ing Ja­son Sheeler, who started this week as ed­i­tor in chief. There are a hand­ful of part-time ed­i­to­rial staffers, but some are in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors, not em­ploy­ees. The ex­o­dus did not af­fect the mag­a­zine’s ad­ver­tis­ing staff. The slick mag­a­zine is still stuffed with ads; its Septem­ber is­sue weighed in at 156 pages.

Pub­lisher Paul Reul­bach did not re­turn phone calls. Mod­ern Lux­ury Ed­i­to­rial Direc­tor Stephanie Davis Smith did not re­turn an email seek­ing com­ment.

Jon Stein­berg, the mag­a­zine’s ed­i­tor in chief un­til mid-July, said, “Since I left, there have been whis­pers and then ram­pant dis­cus­sion of them lay­ing off most of the staff any­way.” Em­ploy­ees “see the writ­ing on the wall and are quit­ting.”

While em­ploy­ees are be­ing paid, Stein­berg said “the par­ent com­pany has been been egre­giously delin­quent in pay­ing free­lancers for about a year now. Ev­ery sin­gle day, I was be­ing bom­barded by frus­trated free­lancers I had hired who were sup­posed to be paid within 45 days of pub­li­ca­tion” and had been wait­ing up to 180 days. “We had copy ed­i­tors who were full-time free­lancers, who hadn’t been paid in two, three, four months.”

San Fran­cisco free­lance writer Laura Fraser said she started an “all-out cam­paign” af­ter pay­ment for a story she did on moun­tain lions was 120 days late. She wrote to Mod­ern Lux­ury’s chief ex­ec­u­tive and chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer and copied the let­ter to 120 col­leagues at the San Fran­cisco Writ­ers’ Grotto, a co-work­ing group. She also posted about her tra­vails on so­cial me­dia. She said she fi­nally got paid Sept. 5, more than five months af­ter she sent an in­voice.

Stein­berg said that in mid-2017, Mod­ern Lux­ury ac­quired its big­gest com­peti­tor, Green­gale Pub­lish­ing. “They al­most dou­bled in size overnight. Ever since then, they took on so much over­head and new ex­penses that they hadn’t planned for.”

Fraser said San Fran­cisco mag­a­zine pur­sued se­ri­ous jour­nal­ism un­der its pre­vi­ous ed­i­tors, mak­ing it “an out­lier” in the Mod­ern Lux­ury sta­ble. Its other publi­ca­tions fo­cus on in­te­rior de­sign, “the best doc­tors” and other sub­jects “that pull in a lot of ads.”

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