Los Angeles Times to lay off 20% of newsroom, one of the largest staff reductions in paper’s history

Earlier this month, Executive Editor Kevin Merida abruptly left after a 2 1/2-year tenure.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Times said it planned to lay off at least 115 employees — more than 20% of the newsroom — starting Tuesday, one of the largest staff cuts in the newspaper’s 143-year history.

The announcement came after the LA Times Guild walked off the job last Friday to protest the imminent layoffs, the institution’s first ever newsroom union work stoppage.

Matt Pearce, president of the Media Guild of the West, which encompasses the Times’ union, called Tuesday a “dark day.” He said at least 94 union members would be let go.

L.A. Times layoffs, theGrio.com
The Los Angeles Times newspaper headquarters is located in El Segundo, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. The Los Angeles Times plans to lay off 94 newsroom employees starting Tuesday, according to the head of the journalists’ union who said the number, while substantial, is less than feared. (Photo by Damian Dovarganes, AP)

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

He said some of those selected for layoffs by management may be eligible for buyouts under the union contract.

Senior editors, photographers and members of the video unit were also part of the purge, the Times said.

The cuts were necessary because the Times could no longer lose up to $40 million a year without boosting advertising and subscription revenue, the paper’s owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, said Tuesday.

“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 said.

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.

The latest round of job cutting at the LA Times comes after more than 70 positions — about 13% of the newsroom — were slashed last June.

“This staffing cut is the fruit of years of middling strategy, the absence of a publisher, and no clear direction,” the union said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “We remain grateful for the Soon-Shiong family’s investment in the newspaper, and we remain committed to be good-faith partners in the business and at the bargaining table. But it’s clear that those entrusted to steward his family’s largesse have failed him — not the rank-and-file staff members with no say in editorial priorities.”

Soon-Shiong, a biotech billionaire, acquired the Times in 2018, returning it to local ownership two decades after it was sold to Tribune Co. The purchase raised hopes after years of cutbacks, circulation declines and leadership changes.

Earlier this month, Executive Editor Kevin Merida abruptly left after a 2 1/2-year tenure.

Pearce said the union’s bargaining committee would meet with Times management on Wednesday to start discussions about the layoffs as set out by the contract.

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