Layoffs at 5280, too

As publications throughout Colorado suffered declines in recent years, one seemed immune from problems afflicting the journalism industry: 5280. As noted in "Dan Brogan's a Mile High on 5280 ," a July 2007 blog featuring an interview with the aforementioned Brogan, the magazine's founder, editor and publisher (pictured here), the glossy has actually added staff during a period when many if not most of its competitors were downsizing. But today's fiscal woes have finally landed at its door. Brogan confirms that he recently laid off two employees: editor-at-large Cara McDonald and director of digital media Sabrina Comroe.

Brogan explained what took place, and took a guess about what it might portend for the future, in the following response to my e-mail inquiry:

Yes, your tip is correct. We laid off Cara and Sabrina on December 18. They're great people who made significant contributions to 5280, and we miss them both.

As you know from your previous reporting, we've aggressively grown our staff over the last five years as an investment in the magazine's future. But with the economy as it now is, and with our advertisers hurting the way they are, we no longer have the luxury of living in the future. So what I've done is to resize the company to meet today's realities.

We actually finished 2008 with total ad sales that were a few percentage points higher than 2007. Final newsstand numbers aren't in yet, but I expect our circulation revenue will be strong as well. But, like everyone else, our expenses are way up, and we've seen a consistent softening in ad sales beginning with our November issue that's continued on through our March issue, which we're working on now. I don't think things will be this way forever, but we certainly need to plan as if they will be for the bulk of 2009.

In addition to the layoffs, we've instituted a hiring and salary freeze, and we're tightening our belts across the board. All together, I'm confident we can weather the current storm and continue to do the kind of journalism that's been winning awards and attracting new readers over these last few years.

Of course, Westword has experienced layoffs as well, and publications too numerous to list are cutting back in a wide variety of ways. Still, it's an unpleasant surprise to learn that the one local publication that appeared to be best weathering the economic storm has also been damaged. -- Michael Roberts

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