The Los Angeles Times will eliminate 74 jobs representing 13 percent of its newsroom, the company announced on Wednesday, as it grapples with the same downturn in the advertising market and other macroeconomic effects that have impacted other media outlets of its size.
It is the first major round of layoffs under the ownership of billionaire investor Patrick Soon-Shiong, who acquired the newspaper in 2018. The paper planned a number of layoffs during the coronavirus health pandemic, but a union representing Los Angeles Times journalists was able to avoid layoffs then in exchange for furloughs and work-sharing agreements.
That will not be the case this time around, with editors, photographers, beat writers and other editorial workers slated to lose their jobs in the coming days. The newspaper began notifying affected workers today, according to a reporter who spoke with The Desk on background, and union representatives are collaborating with impacted journalists and the company to ensure they receive severance benefits.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the NewsGuild union said it has tried to work with the Los Angeles Times toward a new contract for its members, but with little progress since the previous one expired last November.
“This list of targeted layoffs is not final,” the NewsGuild spokesperson said. “Under our contract, management is required to bargain with the Guild over proposed layoffs. Management also so far has failed to offer buyouts to staff as is required by our contract.”
In a newsroom-wide announcement on Wednesday, Los Angeles Times Executive Editor Kevin Merida said the layoffs were necessary to ensure the newspaper is able to grow and thrive within the constraints of a limited budget.
“We have done a vast amount of work as a company to meet the budget and revenue challenges head on,” Merida said. “That work will need acceleration, and we will need more radical transformation in the newsroom for us to become a self-sustaining enterprise. Our imperative is to become a modern media company: More nimble, more experimental, bolder with our ambition and creativity than we are today.”
When the dust settles, the Los Angeles Times will have just north of 500 newsroom workers.
“Decisions that result in talented staffers losing their jobs are agonizing,” Merida said. “We will be saying goodbye to some tremendous colleagues.”