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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pandemic has been a nightmare for thousands of journalists out of work —and for additional thousands trying to navigate jobs amid fear and uncertainty.

Why it matters: Recent departures, deals, layoffs and restructurings amid the pandemic have journalists questioning whether there's stability anywhere within the industry.

Driving the news: Ezra Klein's departure from Vox announced Friday sent shockwaves across Twitter.

  • Klein, who had co-founded the publication seven years ago, announced he was leaving to become a columnist and podcaster at The New York Times.
  • His colleague, Lauren Williams — Vox's editor-in-chief and senior vice president — is also leaving to start her own non-profit media firm focused on Black communities.

Klein becomes the Times' latest high-profile hire in recent months. The Grey Lady hired Kara Swisher away from Vox last year. It has since poached several big names, including former BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith and former Bloomberg columnist Shira Ovide.

  • The Times' investment in mega-stars is part of a broader consolidation trend in the media industry, in which giants expand while smaller outlets continue to get bought up or fade away.
  • On Thursday, BuzzFeed struck a deal to acquire the progressive news website HuffPost from Verizon Media. Verizon Media reportedly paid Buzzfeed to be able to offload the title.

Some high-profile journalists have been striking out on their own amid the pandemic, seeking in several high-profile cases to get back to their blogging roots. Companies like Vox and HuffPost that emerged from the weblog movement eventually matured into corporate newsrooms.

  • Last week, Klein's former colleague and Vox.com co-founder Matthew Yglesias said he was leaving the company to start his own newsletter.
  • Glenn Greenwald last month quit The Intercept, an outlet he cofounded, after 7 years, citing efforts by his editors to "censor" articles critical of President-elect Biden.

The big picture: While the exits at Vox aren't necessarily related, they do represent a greater trend: Brands that were once considered disruptive digital upstarts now must navigate a competitive media market without the startup hype — and, often, without their founders.

  • In the past eight months, companies that were once considered the future of journalism, like Vice, Buzzfeed, Quartz and Vox Media, have let hundreds of people go.
  • They themselves are now being challenged by a new crop of digital media upstarts with a more specialized focus on newer kinds of products, like newsletters, streaming and podcasts.
  • They also face competition from some well-positioned legacy outlets, like The Times, that have both authority and deep pockets.

Yes, but: Those legacy companies, including The Times, as well as The Atlantic and ESPN, have also faced layoffs and headwinds related to the pandemic.

Local news companies, already under enormous financial pressure, have been hit particularly hard by the advertising dropoff related to the pandemic.

By the numbers: In total, it's been estimated that more than 11,000 journalism jobs were lost in the first half of the year. Thousands more layoffs are expected by year's end.

The bottom line: The uncertainty has made it tough for journalists to find any sure bets for survival.

  • While there's more opportunity to do journalism across a greater array of media — podcasting, streaming, newsletters, and more — there's little certainty around what type of employment will still exist in five years and what type of company will have the means to create new jobs and products.
  • While some high-profile stars will continue to build their franchises, most of the tens of thousands of journalists across the country will continue to face hardships.

Go deeper

Newsletters are growing up and leaving the coop

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

After 10 months as a collection of newsletters created via Substack, the team behind the Everything Bundle is breaking out on its own with $600,000 in seed funding, its own content and newsletter software built in-house, and a refreshed brand as Every.

Why it matters: While services like Substack have made it easier than ever to start a personal newsletter and even generate income from paying subscribers, some authors are figuring out they need more than an internet connection and writing ideas to build out their business.

Updated 19 mins ago - Sports

MLB enters first lockout since '95 as deal expires

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred (L) and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark. Photo: Matt King/MLB via Getty Images

Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday without a new deal in place.

Why it matters: With no CBA, the MLB is in a management lockout — the first work stoppage since a 1994-95 strike led to the cancelation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years.

Media giants back Bannon's bid to release Jan. 6 documents

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon at the FBI Washington Field Office in Washington, DC., in November. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A coalition of news outlets including the Washington Post is supporting Stephen Bannon's campaign for the release of documents related to his contempt of Congress charges, WashPost confirmed Wednesday.

Why it matters: WashPost, the New York Times, CNN, NBC, the Wall Street Journal's parent company and others filed a motion arguing that a proposed protective order seeking to prevent the documents from being released violates the First Amendment, per the Daily Mail, which first reported on the news.