Update below: Yesterday, the Denver Post announced that six members of the staff would be laid off, with five of them serving as community managers for YourHub, the paper's citizen-journalist arm.
Is this the beginning of the end for YourHub, which began its life under the umbrella of the Rocky Mountain News, shuttered in 2009 after nearly 150 years of publication? Not according to Post editor Greg Moore. However, he acknowledges that the five layoffs represent nearly a third of YourHub's staff.
As we've reported, YourHub was launched by the Rocky in 2005, and in a Message column from that year, John Temple, the tabloid's editor, described it in positively altruistic terms. "We can fulfill a role of helping to connect the community," he said. "Readers will be able to share their lives -- and we're giving them a platform to do it."
Of course, the concept was also seen as a profit engine -- a way of corralling dollars that otherwise would have gone to then-bustling neighborhood and community newspapers with zoned editions largely filled with user-generated copy that cost little or nothing. And over time, YourHub proved to be quite a sturdy offering, surviving the death of the Rocky and becoming a Post staple. In an August 2009 item headlined "YourHub.com: A local-media success story," I wrote, "YourHub still isn't a must-read -- at least for me. But I can imagine plenty of other folks finding the paper and its web component to be useful, informative and enjoyable. It's not the journalistic revolution Temple implied, but the paper/site has carved out an old-fashioned place for itself in the new-media marketplace." Of late, however, YourHub, which had grown into a welcome entry point for many young journalists just starting their careers, has been as susceptible to downsizing as the Post as a whole.
Update: In the original version of this post, we shared quotes from YourHub community manager Dacia Johnson, who told us back in March 2012 that she'd been laid off at the same as columnists Mike Littwin and Penny Parker. However, she just reached out to reveal she beat the reaper back then and has done so again.
"It turns out I was able to stay thanks to someone else from our team going into early retirement," she writes via e-mail. "Two months ago, I was bumped to an editor position which saved me from the community manager layoffs on Wednesday. I am number six, one away from being laid off again."
At this point, we don't know the identities of the latest YourHub community managers to depart, and neither does Moore.
"We notified [Denver Newspaper] Guild members we were laying off six people -- five community managers in YourHub and one digital photo editor," Moore writes in an e-mail to Westword. "Not sure who those people will be because there could be volunteers in the job category. Otherwise it is by seniority."
Either way, Moore notes, such layoffs constitute "tough stuff" -- not just because of the people involved, but the impact on YourHub as a whole. He calculates the YourHub layoffs as representing "a 29 percent reduction of the staff."
This number is "hefty, no doubt," Moore concedes. "But that was the rough percentage by which we grew YourHub during better times just a few years ago. We are going back more to the original concept and believe our product will remain high quality and relevant for users and readers. We honestly don't expect much change at all."
In other words, the YourHub experiment isn't over, but it will operate on a smaller scale -- just like so much of the traditional journalism business these days.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Media archive circa March 2012: "Penny Parker, Mike Littwin layoffs linked to YourHub changes at Post."
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