Turbulence hit the six decades-old Sports Illustrated magazine after it decided to lay off 50 percent of the editorial staff and allowed a blogger network to take over the editorial control.

On Thursday afternoon, staff members were told by managers that half of the editorial staff would be laid off, according to insiders.

This followed a change in editorial control of the brand and was handed to the Maven network.

NPR news obtained a copy of the petition by SI journalists that portrayed the crisis. The scribes urged the management not to hand over the publication to digital publisher-The Maven network.

“TheMaven wants to replace top journalists in the industry with a network of Maven freelancers and bloggers while reducing or eliminating departments that have ensured that the stories we publish and produce meet the highest standards,” the petition said.

They warned that such plans will damage the publication’s repute and brand equity besides injuring the economic stability. The newsroom chaos on Thursday led to the cancellation of many meetings.

The restructuring is being spearheaded by Ross Levinsohn, the controversial former Los Angeles Times CEO. He is an appointee of Maven.

Levinsohn has a controversial background as a publisher of the Los Angeles Times and was an investor in a digital outfit.

Levinsohn’s strategy called “gravitas with scale” uses unpaid contributors that cut into jobs held by traditional newsroom journalists.

Popular for swimsuit model specials

The Sports Illustrated magazine is known for its SI Swimsuit specials featuring top models and the SI Swimsuit Instagram account has a huge fan following.

Recently the brand announced that Vita Sidorkina will be the 2020 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model after the model made waves with 2018 splash at Nevis beach.

Maven gains control of SI editorial

Both Levinsohn and his business partner and founder of Maven James Heckman met with the newsroom team on Thursday afternoon.

“We're pushing to find out as much information as we can,” said Steve Cannella, recently promoted this week to be co-editor in chief.

In the past year, the magazine had gone into the hands of many players. Meredith Corporation took over SI last year and then sold it in May 2019 to Authentic Brands Group while retaining some controlling rights.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition VR
Nina Agdal appears in a VR video available through the SI Swimsuit app. Sports Illustrated

But weeks later Authentic Brands inked a licensing deal with Maven that cut Meredith's involvement. Authentic Brands gave the right to operate the publication to Maven for 100 years. That deal was finalized on Thursday.

Meredith has confirmed that Authentic Brands has completed the transfer of editorial control of Sports Illustrated to Maven. It said the layoffs were done at the behest of Maven and Meredith has no role in it.

Meredith also added that going forward the remaining SI employees will work at the direction and pleasure of Maven.