Choire Sicha quit his high-profile job as editor of the New York Times Styles section in April because he was so burned out that he sometimes cried at work.

In a recent blog post to promote a pal’s book, Sicha revealed for the first time the emotional toll the job had been taking on him.

“I quit my job running Styles at The Times because I did not wish to do it any more,” he said before suggesting that he sometimes thought of death as preferable to running the popular section devoted to fashion, culture and romance.

“If you are unhappy, or if you frequently say you are ‘exhausted,’ if maybe you cry at work a little more often than you personally think is reasonable, if you wake up in the morning and consider dying instead of going to work, you CLEARLY owe it to yourselves to do something else,” he said.

Sicha, a former Gawker editor known for his droll writing style, had been running the influential Styles section for four years when he up and quit in April.

At the time he cited burnout, but it seemed to be in an effort to poke fun at the recent “trend” of overworked media folks bolting from their jobs.

“I know quitting media jobs is a solid trend at this point and I hate being slightly late to it but it’s always nice to have company,” he wrote stunned staffers in April.

Sicha’s followup June 21 blog post, via subscription website Substack, took a more serious tone.

A shot of the New York Times headquarters in Times Square
Choire Sicha says he quit the Times because he was burned out and unhappy.
Shutterstock

“I had lunch with a friend the other day and she was basically like, listen … you should talk about your burnout because men don’t talk about this and mostly just women are discussing careers and burnout and I should do my part,” he wrote in a post that popped up days after he left the Times payroll.

Staying at the paper, he says, would have made him a “worse person.”

“Will making a change make you poor or scared? SURE. Could the change be bad? ABSOLUTELY. But the alternative — staying put, degrading like an old yogurt — is to become a worse person.”

Sicha, a co-founder of culture website The Awl, was hired by the Times in 2017 in an apparent effort to shake things up at the section known for its wedding announcements and “Modern Love” column.

Despite rave reviews for the section while he was at the helm, Times brass had been reportedly uneasy with Sicha’s hands-off management style. According to the Daily Beast, that included his inability to rein in the social media activity of Taylor Lorenz, a reporter he hired who has been known to engage with her online critics.

Sicha himself suggests he may not have been a good fit culturally.

“On your last day at The New York Times — and my last day was Friday — they come out with a big greasy cardboard box from the basement and return to you all the opinions you had when you started working there. Wait, imperialism … I’m against it??? Wow, what else is in here I wonder!”

And he ends the post by hinting that Times brass may have been right to fret about his laidback management style: “Why would I want to work myself into dust trying and failing to solve someone else’s problems when instead I can simply be a problem myself?”

The Times’ executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor and heir apparent Joe Kahn previously announced that Sicha would be staying on to help them develop a newsletter project that some observers saw as a way for the Gray Lady to compete with Substack.

But in an embarrassing move for Times brass, Sicha bailed shortly thereafter, announcing via Twitter that he would be an editor-at-large for New York magazine starting on Aug. 1.

His April 16 departure left the Times in the awkward position for starting a job search for the important Styles section from scratch. And it took nearly two months to land a replacement.

Two days after Sicha announced his new plans, he was replaced by Stella Bugbee, the former editor-in-chief of New York magazines fashion vertical The Cut, who since October had stepped back to an editor-at-large job for New York magazine.

How his departure affects their plans to compete with Substack remains unclear.

While Sicha’s woes at the Times appear to have been part cultural and part managerial, he’s not alone in feeling burnout. Shortly after he left, the Gray Lady told staffers that it would be adding three extra days off for the remainder of the year — one per quarter — in an effort to offset the “burnout” and “exhaustion” that staffers have been feeling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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