California Sunday Magazine is no more.
The photo-led magazine that also focused on long form reporting focused on the U.S. West and Latin America since its launch in 2014 already stopped publishing in print early this summer. Now, it will cease all online operations as well. Until May, the magazine was distributed quarterly in weekend editions of The Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Emerson Collective, a foundation started by Laurene Powell Jobs, acquired California Sunday and its affiliate Pop-Up Magazine Productions in late 2018. The decision to shut down California Sunday operations is said to come from Emerson pulling funding. Pop-Up will still be operating, but with a smaller staff, and apparently without backing from Emerson.
A representative of California Sunday/Pop-Up could not be immediately reached for comment, nor could one from Emerson. But union leaders for the publication’s staff released a letter early Wednesday, admitting the closure of the magazine online and related layoffs of a relatively small staff of a dozen people. While California Sunday was a more typical magazine publication, Pop-Up Magazine produced “live” magazine-style events featuring music, food and exhibits.
California Sunday won a few National Magazine Awards in its brief existence, one year for overall design and two years in a row for photography. It was a finalist for 13 awards, known as Ellies, in total.
Leaders of a staff union, only formed in August, noted on Twitter that Emerson “decided to sever ties” with the media operations and that staff was informed of the closure in a sudden all-staff meeting. The company as a whole was informed at the same time, according to union representatives, who alluded to possible illegality of such a sudden closure.
“We believe your actions violated legal and moral obligations and we’re sending this note to be clear about the implications of those violations on the team you care about,” the leaders wrote the note, addressed to Doug McGray, editor in chief of California Sunday, and Chas Edwards, cofounder of Pop-Up.
Union leaders told the executives they had a “legal obligation to bargain the scope and method of these cuts” before they were announced, which did not happen. Union leaders are demanding a sitdown in order to negotiate severance packages or laid-off workers. They also want to discuss the implications of Pop-Up operating with a decreased budget.
“These cuts have huge ramifications for the people informed of their termination — and for those who continue to work at Pop-Up Magazine Productions,” union leaders wrote in the letter. “Those who were let go must scramble to make plans, without any information on severance. People still at the company must figure out how to tell stories with limited budget and resources and in the absence of an investor.”
A number of laid-off staffers took Wednesday morning to Twitter admitting they’ve suddenly found themselves out of work and sharing personal contact details — a move that tends to follow any layoff event at a media organization.
Emerson has other media investments. Most notably it took a majority stake in The Atlantic last year. The publication enacted sizable layoffs earlier this year, amid a surge in subscriptions and a shift in its revenue strategy. Emerson has also invested in The Athletic, Ozy Media, and Gimlet Media, which it exited with a sale to Spotify.