Wednesday 24 January 2024

Mass Layoffs Rock LA Times: Over 100 Staff Cut, Affecting a Quarter of the News Guild Due to Heavy Losses


Photo: Ryan Quick

The Los Angeles Times announced on Tuesday a significant reduction in its workforce, laying off at least 115 employees, which constitutes over 20% of its newsroom.

This decision marks one of the largest workforce reductions in the 142-year history of the newspaper, the company announced.

The decision comes in the wake of consecutive years of considerable financial losses for the LA Times.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the owner of the Los Angeles Times, explained that the cuts were essential.

The paper, he said, could no longer afford to lose $30 million to $40 million annually without making strides in building a larger readership base, crucial for increasing advertising and subscription revenues. 

Dr. Soon-Shiong emphasized the need for drastic changes, including appointing new leadership focused on enhancing the newspaper’s journalism to attract more readers.

“Today’s decision is painful for all, but it is imperative that we act urgently and take steps to build a sustainable and thriving paper for the next generation. We are committed to doing so,” said Soon-Shiong.

He also expressed disappointment with the newsroom guild for not collaborating with management to devise a plan that could have saved jobs. Instead, the guild chose to focus on a one-day strike last Friday, which Soon-Shiong remarked, “did not help.”

Matt Pearce, President of the Media Guild of the West and a reporter at the Times, informed guild members that 94 of the positions cut were covered by the guild, a quarter of its members. Pearce described the situation as a “dark day” for the newspaper, with several departments across the newsroom being heavily affected.

Dr. Soon-Shiong also expressed frustration with previous leadership and their efforts, or lack thereof, in expanding the paper’s reach through Los Angeles Times Studios, which aimed to bring the paper’s journalism to a wider audience through documentaries and podcasts.

He cited the recent departure of former Executive Editor Kevin Merida and disagreements over the paper’s direction and the scale of the layoffs.

Reflecting on the challenges faced by the paper, including operational and capital losses surpassing $100 million, Dr. Soon-Shiong emphasized the efforts made to avoid layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic. He reiterated the substantial investment made since acquiring the LA Times, almost a billion dollars, underscoring his commitment to its legacy and future.

Following the layoffs, many former employees took to social media to seek new opportunities.

Last week, NBC News confirmed that it is also laying off a number of its employees, a decision that has sparked considerable backlash from union representatives.

The layoffs, described as impacting a double-digit number of employees within its roughly 3,500-strong workforce, are expected to affect between 50 to 100 individuals. This news comes amidst a broader trend of workforce reductions in major media outlets, including CNN, NPR, and The Washington Post.

Sources familiar with the matter indicate that those affected will receive 60 days’ notice, along with severance packages and outplacement services.

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