According to a report from The Los Angeles Times, the newspaper has begun the process of laying off employees. It is anticipated that at least 115 staff members from the newsroom will be let go, which accounts for over 20% of the total newsroom workforce. This includes writers, photographers, and other important roles.
This round of cuts marks one of the largest reductions in the history of the newspaper, which has been in operation for 142 years. It is the second set of layoffs within the past seven months, with the initial round resulting in the elimination of 74 newsroom positions. The decline in advertising revenue was cited as the reason behind the previous round of cuts, which impacted full-time and temporary workers across various departments.
The current layoffs come as the newspaper predicts another year of significant financial losses. Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the owner of the L.A. Times and a biotech billionaire, stated that these cuts are a necessary measure. The newspaper cannot sustain annual losses of $30 to $40 million. Soon-Shiong believes that substantial changes are required to increase readership, leading to higher advertising revenue and more subscriptions.
Soon-Shiong expressed his commitment to building a thriving and sustainable newspaper for future generations, while acknowledging the pain associated with the layoffs. In an interview, he mentioned that the recent one-day guild strike did not aid the situation, suggesting that working cooperatively with management to develop an alternative plan could have been more effective. However, alternative strategies often do not yield better results for workers compared to union-based negotiations.
Last week, members of the L.A. Times union staged a strike, objecting to imminent extensive cuts and ongoing disagreements. They criticized the proposed changes to their employment agreements as being unreasonable and unmanageable. Union representatives emphasized the importance of preserving seniority protections to ensure stability for journalists in the long run. They urged management to engage in good faith bargaining to devise a buyout plan that identifies specific cost-saving goals with a preference for buyouts rather than layoffs.
The guild also raised concerns about the management’s alleged attempt to divide colleagues against one another in pursuit of a plan that can jeopardize the future success of the L.A. Times, as well as hinder the free press in the second largest city in America. The Media Guild of the West President, Matt Pearce, expressed his disappointment, as 94 positions covered by the guild will face severe impacts in various departments.
Soon-Shiong acknowledged the challenges faced by the L.A. Times in recent years, including losses exceeding $100 million in operational and capital expenses. However, amidst these difficulties, he revealed that newsroom layoffs were not implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the wide-scale layoffs taking place, Soon-Shiong reassured the public that the company is not in chaos and has a solid plan for the future.