LA Times to cut 13% of its newsroom. What’s happening in media?

LA Times management has identified 74 newsroom positions it plans to cut due to budgetary issues. Photo by Shutterstock.

The LA Times took home two Pulitzer Prizes this year, but on Wednesday, it announced it’s cutting 74 newsroom positions due to a loss of advertising revenue. It’s the first major round of layoffs since billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the paper in 2018. Meanwhile, other news and media companies, including NPR, Spotify, and Buzzfeed News, have all recently experienced layoffs. 

Major companies are pulling back on ad spending and sponsorship deals in anticipation of a recession that hasn’t fully manifested, says NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. And while the Times is owned by a mega-rich businessman, there’s only so much Soon-Shiong can subsidize.

The LA Times Guild, which represents hundreds of staffers, has described the layoffs as “outrageous and reckless.” According to the guild’s co-chief steward, Reed Johnson, 57 of the union’s members, including other leaders, are being let go. 

Reporter jobs, Folkenflik says, are largely spared. Other parts of the newsroom haven’t been as lucky. According to the guild, this is just the beginning, and the unit wasn’t consulted prior to the announcement. 

The union is currently in negotiations with LA Times management to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement. The last contract expired in November. 

“They were upset that these cuts were identified without negotiations ahead of time to give you a counterpart. NPR just laid off 10% of its workforce and that caused incredible consternation and anger and upset inside our network,” Folkenflik explains. “I will say that union leaders were allowed to review the books. They said it was grim. They said they had only a couple of days' notice of the fact of the layoffs that were coming, but that first that management had done everything it could they thought to avoid it.”

He adds, “They ultimately worked closely with management not only to identify people, but also the kinds of positions that could be affected. … They felt, ultimately, it was the best of an extremely bad circumstance. You're not hearing that level of goodwill or trust here in LA.”