Thursday, June 28, 2012
Chris Krewson Leaves Variety For THR: Another Strange Chapter In The Current History Of A Once-Perfect Brand
So today’s news was interesting enough to make me return from my sabbatical (which, by the way, is allowed, since it’s my blog.) And notice my headline. I didn't say anyone should be in panic mode. I didn't take sides. I didn't say this was a terrible decision...or a good decision. I just said this is strange.
Here’s what I know: Chris Krewson is generally liked, although his role wasn't defined too well at Variety. He is a solid enough worker. He has 3600 Twitter followers. He moved out from Philadelphia years ago to take the Variety job, only to see what he was up against: paywalls, an archaic platform, lack of progress, leadership voids and the overall sense that Variety, as great a brand as it is to the outside world…lost some steps along the way. Now, he wasn't the perfect fit...but I tend to think he thought he was getting a 21st century toy to play with when he joined. Not a lemon. So I give him the benefit of the doubt. And he's certainly good enough to run both Variety.com and the now-well-thought-of THR.com. Is that a fair assessment?
He was also up against directional issues for a while. When the lovely Dana Harris was at Variety, there was an issue of “who’s job is it.” She moved on, of course, to Indiewire, and things got a little clearer for Chris. But by then, things weren’t any cleaner on the publishing side. Chris, simply, was doing a job, the very description of which was not in the place's DNA. (Apologies if I got some of my chronology wrong here...maybe Chris can fill me in.)
Now, to be fair, Web editors aren’t heart surgeons. People are so replaceable. Certainly him. Shaq left, and the Lakers were fine. So although overreactions are what journalists do best, they rarely are justified. Besides, people defect all the time at other media businesses, and it’s not a big deal at all.
Instead, here’s why Chris’ departure is kinda newsworthy: Because it’s not about the person who departed. It’s about the fact that a revolving door is so common at an organization where a revolving door should not exist in the first place.
Chris, whether he was A-plus or B-minus material, now joins Todd McCarthy (THR), Mike Fleming (Deadline), Ben Fritz (LATimes), Joe Adalian (Vulture), Michael Schneider (TVGuide), Dana (Indiewire), David Rooney (THR), Pamela McClintock (THR), Phil Gallo (Billboard), Madelyn Hammond (Penske), Charlie Koones (Moontide), Anne Thompson (Indiewire), the just-departed Tatiana Siegel (THR), Michael Speier (Disney), Kathy Lyford (Fox), Dan Frankel (PaidContent), Diane Garrett (The Wrap), Sharon Swart and countless others who have not only left but landed nicely. (So many others...send me people I'm missing.)
That’s what Chris’ departure is all about. That these people…who are REALLY good at their jobs…are no longer there. That's the only news that matters. Some by their choice and some by the paper’s choice. But no longer there.
And here's the thing: We’re no longer in 2009. The journalist depression should be over to a paper like Variety, which claims (and I actually do believe it) is making some money. So is it THAT HARD to keep people? To get the best? Is it THAT HARD to recruit the top talent and kick ass? Is it THAT HARD to compete at the highest level? If so...then I assume you have the BEST web editor in the land waiting in the wings to replace Chris.
When something like this happens, the news cycle rids itself of the stories in a day. But the ripples -- to those who love Variety -- stay forever. No jokes about the death of Variety here. Just another weird move that reflects so strangely on a place that has plenty of people who still adore everything about it.