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“Entry points. We need more entry points!”
There were nods of agreement around the conference table. This was, after all, the new editor of the world’s leading magazine for men. From New York no less. But we weren’t rubes. We knew about entry points, those flashy breaks in text to catch the eye of snoozy readers.
Our new chief held up a page of the current issue of the magazine. It was blinding in its whiteness. All text. He flipped to another page. Oh, my God. More text.
“Jump is death,” he pronounced, referring to the editorial practice of continuing stories beyond their opening pages.
We nodded gravely. How had we failed to notice this?
I will tell you how. We worked for a cultural institution. The man who founded this institution-back in the Eisenhower fifties-still ran the show. Of course he did. We were the world’s leading magazine for men.
Two weeks after our seminar on entry points, a funny thing happened. I was shown the exit. The world’s leading magazine for men was going to have to lead without me.
I’d been laid off.
I wasn’t entirely ignorant of layoffs. Playboy had trimmed its staff several times, partly to accommodate the burst Internet bubble, partly to cope with an ad recession that had afflicted the entire magazine industry. Of course, Playboy was not alone. Chicago, in fact, was the official layoff capital of the nation. Andersen was gone. Kraft had restructured. United was barely off the ground that chilly week before Thanksgiving.
But this was me.
I’d been at Playboy 16 years. The place was my home, my identity. When people asked what I did I responded, “I’m the managing editor of Playboy.” (If I sniffed an attitude, I would hedge, “I’m a magazine editor.") If people wanted to know where to reach me I plucked out my business card. I wrote people on Playboy stationery. My assistant answered the phone, “Jonathan Black’s office.”
Now what was I going to do? I didn’t ask myself that question while the woman in HR handed me a slip of paper detailing my severance pay and a packet from Lee Hecht Harrison, an outplacement firm. I was too busy worrying I’d start smoking again.