LA Times Faces Layoffs

In a shocking move on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times initiated a second round of major layoffs, resulting in the termination of at least 115 employees, which accounts for about a quarter of its newsroom.

This development highlights the broader challenges faced by the news business. The affected positions included reporters, editors, and columnists, with the union representing the newsroom, revealing that the layoffs disproportionately affected Black, Latino, and Asian employees who typically have less seniority.

The decision did not come as a surprise, as members of the union had staged a one-day walkout on Friday in an attempt to persuade the paper's billionaire owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, to reconsider potentially drastic cuts. The recent resignation of Executive Editor Kevin Merida and other senior newsroom managers added to the turmoil, reflecting the difficult conditions faced by news organizations, even those with deep-pocketed owners.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong justified the layoffs, stating that they were necessary as the paper could no longer sustain annual losses of $30 million to $40 million without significant progress in increasing revenue and readership.

The billionaire investor had initially invested heavily in shoring up the news organization's business and editorial operations, undertaking a hiring spree, and pledging to diversify the newsroom. However, industry-wide challenges and recent stresses such as the impact of COVID-19 and Hollywood strikes reportedly led to declining revenues, prompting the company to make substantial cuts last summer.

The extent of the layoffs is historic for the Los Angeles Times, representing a stark departure from the initial optimism surrounding Soon-Shiong's ownership. The billionaire investor, who had committed to building a sustainable and thriving paper for the next generation, now faces the disappointment of dashed hopes. The layoffs include significant cuts to the video department and other departments such as photography and sports.

Vice President of Communications Hillary Manning acknowledged the difficulty of the decision but emphasized the commitment to maintaining the Los Angeles Times as one of the largest newsrooms in the country. Specifics regarding the number of positions cut from each department were not disclosed. The Washington bureau also bore the brunt of the cuts, with reporter Sarah D. Wire revealing on social media that it had been decimated, leaving only five reporters.

The impact reverberated beyond the newsroom, affecting 94 members of the LA Times Guild, constituting about a quarter of the union's total membership. However, Media Guild West President Matt Pearce noted that the number of layoffs was reduced after the guild went on strike the previous week.

As the news industry grapples with ongoing challenges, the Los Angeles Times' drastic measures underscore the precarious state of journalism and the efforts needed to navigate a sustainable path forward.

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