The Onion’s first edition after relocating to New York City was the now-classic September 11 issue, which forced the Midwestern satirical paper to suddenly become locals. In the decade since, it has set up roots, so much so that when CEO Steve Hannah announced last fall that the company would be moving back to Chicago, a bunch of staff balked. According to an Atlantic Wire report today, eleven of sixteen full-time editorial staffers have refused the move, including the paper’s digital director and web celebrity Baratunde Thurston, despite Hannah’s promise of a raise and a relocation package.
When the announcement was made, someone reportedly asked, “What if we don’t come?” and was told by Hannah, “If some of you don’t come, I’ll have to replace you,” an ultimatum one employee now calls “maddening.”
“Nothing against Chicago. I think it’s a great town,” said a staffer. “But we’re here in the center of everything and it’s still a challenge to find good people.” Under Thurston’s leadership, the New York contingent even found a willing buyer for the paper in the technology company Betaworks, but Hannah declined. “I could have been far more delicate about delivering the news,” the CEO says now. “I regret the way that first meeting went but I certainly don’t apologize for making extremely generous offers for everyone.”
But in true Onion fashion, the team responded with jokes: “I’m Moving This Miserable Periodical To The Yukon,” reads an October column from a fictional publisher. “If this business has taught me one thing, it is that news is cyclical,” he writes, “and we have written so very many articles in my lifetime that I am sure we can begin repeating them without anyone noticing.” And just last month: “Chicago Population Falling.”