Emmis’ Texas Monthly sues The New York Times


Emmis CommunicationsThe suit says the NY Times was trying to woo Texas Monthly’s editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein over before his contract was up on 2/15. The suit is claiming damages of up to $1 million.

Emmis Publishing LP, which owns Texas Monthly, said it contacted Dean Baquet, the Times’ managing editor, upon learning the newspaper was having job discussions with Silverstein. Despite Baquet’s assurances,” the Times didn’t notify Texas Monthly of the job offer, and the magazine learned of the hiring from Silverstein shortly before the newspaper publicly announced it on 3/28, according to the lawsuit filed 4/11 in state court in Austin.

Ian Arnold, Emmis’s general counsel, told Baquet that “Texas Monthly expected to be compensated” for the cost of finding a replacement editor if Silverstein was hired away before his contract expires, according to the filing obtained by Bloomberg.

“Texas Monthly seeks between $200,000 and $1 million in damages “resulting from the Times’s tortious actions” in inducing Silverstein to break his employment contract. Silverstein, who will start as editor of the paper’s Sunday magazine in May, isn’t personally sued in the complaint.

“We had an understanding with Emmis during the search that Jake would be permitted to exit his contract with Emmis and take the job,” Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the New York Times, told Bloomberg. “We believe there is no basis for a lawsuit.”

In the six years Silverstein has served as Texas Monthly’s top editor, the Austin-based magazine has been nominated for 11 National Magazine Awards, and won four for general excellence, feature writing and public interest.

Francisco Montero, Managing Partner, Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C., gave RBR-TVBR his opinion on the suit: “There are always two sides to every story, but I do find it interesting that they did not file a claim against the employee in the law suit.  The law suit against the Times, which would be governed by Texas state tort laws, claims some variant of tortuous interference with contract.  Tortious interference with contract rights generally can occur where there is a contract between two parties (here the employer and the employee) and a third party convinces one of the parties to the contract to breach that contract against the plaintiff (Emmis), or where the third party disrupts the ability of one party to perform his obligations under the contract. Of course here the Times claims that Emmis was fully informed and essentially consented to the interview and job offer.  I would be curious if the employee’s contract had a non-compete provision, although the enforceability of noncompetes in Texas is limited by statute and case law which may explain why he is not a defendant here.  Also, suing employees or former employees is generally not good for company morale.  The New York Times is a safer target and sends a message to the competition without invoking the noncompete laws.”

The magazine has a paid circulation of 300,000.

See the Bloomberg story here.