Los Angeles Times says it is laying off 115 staff

Los Angeles Times says it is laying off 115 staff (AP)
Los Angeles Times says it is laying off 115 staff (AP)

The Los Angeles Times has announced it is laying off 115 people, marking one of the largest workforce reductions in the outlet’s history.

The cuts, announced this week, will reportedly see the newsroom shrink by 20 per cent. It comes amid projections of another year of heavy losses for the paper.

Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong, the owner of the Times, said that the decision was “painful” but that “drastic” changes were needed to make the paper “indispensable” to readers.

As reported by the Times, Mr Shoon-Shiong said the paper could no longer lose $30 million to $40 million a year without making progress toward building a higher readership that would bring in advertising and subscriptions to sustain the organisation.

“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.

The announcement comes after the LA Times Guild walked off the job last Friday to protest the imminent layoffs, the first newsroom union work stoppage in the newspaper’s 143-year history.

Matt Pearce, president of the Media Guild of the West, which encompasses the Times’ union, called it a “dark day.” He said the layoffs represent one-fourth of the Times Guild’s entire membership.

“Many departments and clusters across the newsroom will be heavily hit,” Pearce said in a statement on Tuesday. “This total, while devastating, is nonetheless far lower than the number of layoffs the Bargaining Committee was expecting last week.”

Mr Soon-Shiong has claimed that the newsroom guild did not work with management to come up with a plan that he said would have saved jobs, but instead focused on the one-day strike last week.

More than 100 employees at the LA Times have been laid off (AP)
More than 100 employees at the LA Times have been laid off (AP)

Following the announcement on Tuesday, many employees, both current and former, took to Twitter to express their dismay. Some reported that the layoffs took place in a webinar on Zoom with the chat function disabled and no chance to ask questions.

Climate columnist Sammy Roth wrote: “More than 100 layoffs hitting @latimes this morning. Absolutely heartbreaking.

“Losing treasured colleagues who work hard to keep people informed and keep The Times afloat financially. This is bad for everyone.”

Later, quoting part of a Times article he added: “Our owner says he has a ‘real plan’ to turn around our finances. If so, he hasn’t told us what it is. Decimating the newsroom absolutely will not help.”

Former breaking news editor Jared Servantez wrote: “I was laid off from the LA Times this morning with over 100 of my colleagues, the hard-working people who made this place great.

“It’s a blow to local journalism, Los Angeles and the West.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Kimbriell Kelly announced that she was also part of the cuts.

“I was laid off today. Winning a Pulitzer was one honor of my life. Another, leading the Washington Bureau as its first person of color and only second woman,” she wrote on X.

De Los reporter Chelsea Hylton, wrote: “As I’m writing this message I have tears coming down my face. Today I received a lay off notice from @latimes.

“It was a childhood dream of mine to be a reporter for this paper and at least I can say I did it! Thank you to everyone who helped me get here. This isn’t the end.”

A spokesperson for the Times told The Independent that the decision to proceed with the layoffs had been “incredibly difficult, and was made only after evaluating all other viable options”.

“The reduction in newsroom staffing was not a reflection on the work and dedication shown by any of the employees who were included in the layoffs. It was the result of economics and the significant gap between our revenue and expenses,” the statement read.

On the manner in which notice of dismissal was delivered, the statement added: “The Guild was notified of the layoffs and notices were also sent to the individuals included in the layoffs, but the company also invited employees to meet with HR on Zoom, at the same time, so they’d receive consistent information in as timely a manner as possible.

“HR also established a dedicated support team to answer questions and provide guidance during this period. The company is also supporting the employees who will be leaving by offering severance packages and outplacement services to help in their transitions.”

Similar layoffs and buyouts have hit a wide swath of the news industry over the past year. The Washington Post, NPR, CNN and Vox Media are among the many companies hit.

An estimated 2,681 news industry jobs were lost through the end of November, according to the employment firm of Challenger, Gray and Christmas. That was more than the full years of 2022 and 2021.