The Los Angeles Times reports that it has begun laying off employees on Tuesday, with at least 115 newsroom staff slated to be let go. The cuts amount to more than 20% of the newsroom, which comprises writers, photographers, and other vital positions.
The new round of cuts is one of the most significant workforce reductions in the newspaper’s lengthy 142-year history and mark the second bout of layoffs for the L.A. Times in the past seven months.
Last June, the L.A. Times cut 74 newsroom positions due to declines in advertising revenue. Those cuts affected full-time and temporary workers, including managers, production staff, news and copy editors, photographers, audio producers, and audience engagement editors.
Today’s cuts come as the newspaper projects another year of heavy losses. The paper’s owner, biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, says the cuts are necessary because the paper could no longer sustain losses of $30 to $40 million annually. The owner states that drastic changes are required to ensure the paper achieves higher readership, ideally resulting in more advertising revenue and higher subscription counts.
“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,” Soon-Shiong says.
In an interview, Soon-Shiong claimed that last Friday’s one-day guild strike “did not help,” and he expressed that the newsroom guild would have been better served by working closer with management on an alternative plan. However, a different strategy rarely works out better for workers than union-based bargaining.
The L.A. Times union had walked out last week, protesting “substantial” impending cuts and ongoing disputes.
“The changes to our contract that management is trying to pressure us into accepting are obscene and unsustainable,” said Brian Contreras, chair of the Guild’s Unit Council. “If this newsroom will ever be a place where reporters can have a reliable, steady job and put down roots in Los Angeles, that will only happen through the preservation of our seniority protections. And if management thinks our financial situation is untenable, they need to come to the bargaining table in good faith and work out a buyout plan with us that would first articulate a clear headcount or cost saving they’re aiming for, and then seek to hit that number with as many buyouts — and as few layoffs — as possible.”
“Management is trying to pit colleagues against colleagues to execute a plan that will be detrimental to the long-term success of the L.A. Times and a blow to the free press in the second largest city in America,” said the Guild’s Black Caucus co-chairs Erin B. Logan and Erika D. Smith last week.
“It’s a dark day at the Los Angeles Times,” says Media Guild of the West President Matt Pearce. 94 guild-covered positions are among those affected by the layoffs. “Many departments and clusters across the newsroom will be heavily hit.”
“It is indeed difficult to reflect upon the recent tumultuous years, during which our business faced significant challenges, including losses that surpassed $100 million in operational and capital expenses,” Soon-Shiong says, emphasizing that despite operational challenges, he and other executives refrained from implementing newsroom layoffs “during the COVID pandemic.”
Despite these sweeping layoffs, Soon-Shiong says, “We are not in turmoil. We have a real plan.”
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.