In a move that guts one of the country’s oldest and most widely circulated newspapers, The Los Angeles Times announced Tuesday that it’s laying off at least 115 members of its staff, or about 20% of its newsroom.
It’s one of the biggest staff reductions in the 142-year-old Southern California institution’s history, the Times said. Though it’s widely regarded as one of the state’s top news outlets, its billionaire owner said it was bleeding as much as $40 million a year due to a crumbling advertising market.
The cuts include 94 members of the Los Angeles Times Guild, or about one quarter of the paper’s unionized staff.
“Slashing a quarter of the newsroom is devastating by any measure — to our members and their families, to our morale, to the quality of our journalism, to the bond with out audience, and to the communities that depend on our work,” the guild said in a statement.
Tuesday’s cuts, the guild noted, follow the elimination of 74 newsroom jobs in July.
The Los Angeles Times headquarters in El Segundo, California.
Among the layoffs are staffers based in Washington, D.C., including Kimbriell Kelly, who was the first person of color and the second woman to head up the D.C. bureau. Management also laid off huge swaths of the paper’s photography, video and sports desk staffs.
Owner and biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong said he had no choice in the matter.
“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,” he said in a memo. The paper’s cuts over the last year have been the first under Soon-Shiong, who bought the Times from Tribune Publishing in 2018.
But the guild reprimanded management for not offering any buyouts, in which employees choose to leave a company for an agreed sum of money.
“In the 2019 contract that The Los Angeles Times’s lawyers negotiated, management can offer buyouts on any day and at any time ― a far more humane way to make cuts during a fiscal crisis of the company’s own making,” the guild said in its statement. “Instead, The Times chose long-planned mass layoffs via webinar in which staff members weren’t allowed so much as a question.”
Members of the Los Angeles Times Guild protest impending layoffs in front of Los Angeles City Hall last Friday.
Tuesday’s cuts to staff are the result of “years of middling strategy, the absence of a publisher, and no clear direction,” the guild continued.
In protest of the looming layoffs, members of the paper’s guild held a one-day walkout Friday, marking the first union-organized work stoppage in the paper’s history.
Ten members of the California delegation in Congress also reached out to Soon-Shiong on Monday, saying they were concerned his planned layoffs would have dire impacts on “the availability of essential news and the strength of our democracy at large.”
In response, the paper’s spokesperson, Hillary Manning, told The New York Times that the paper had appealed to those politicians for help in the past.
“We have made it very clear, to many of these same lawmakers, over the past several years the existential crisis local news publishers face,” she said. “The Los Angeles Times faces economic challenges as acute as any.”
Tuesday’s bloodbath at the Times is the latest in a string of major cuts across the entire industry. Last week, Sports Illustrated’s corporate owner announced that it’s laying off “a significant number, possibly all” of the legacy magazine’s staff. Condé Nast also revealed last week it’s folding its music outlet Pitchfork in GQ, and more than 400 staffers across the publisher’s properties held a one-day walkout Tuesday to protest impending layoffs and what they say are illegal negotiation tactics. Time magazine also told its staff Tuesday to expect significant layoffs.