The Los Angeles Times announced Tuesday that it is laying off 115 staffers, as billionaire owner Patrick Soon-Shiong looks to stem losses that have grown to $30-$40 million a year.
The layoff figure includes both union members and non-union managers. Matt Pearce, a Times reporter and president of Media Guild West, said on X that 94 union staffers were being let go, which he said was “devastating” but less than the number expected a week ago.
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The layoffs were expected to impact employees with the least seniority, per the union’s contract. The union rejected a management proposal to offer buyouts in exchange for giving up the seniority rule.
Some staffers began to post on X that they had been let go. They included Kimbriell Kelly, the D.C. bureau chief, and Nick Baumann, the deputy D.C. bureau chief who was to lead the paper’s coverage of the 2024 presidential race.
Craig Marks, the music editor, and film reporter Jen Yamato were among those laid off as well.
In an interview with the L.A. Times, Soon-Shiong acknowledged that the layoffs were “painful for all,” but said they were necessary to build a sustainable business. He also said that recent years have been “tumultuous,” but pushed back on the idea that the paper is currently in turmoil.
“We are not in turmoil,” he said. “We have a real plan.”
The mass layoff comes just two weeks after Kevin Merida, the paper’s executive editor, announced that he was stepping down after just two and a half years on the job. Four editors were put in charge of the newsroom after Merida’s departure. Two of them have since left the paper.
The layoffs amount to about 20% of the newsroom, and come after the paper cut 74 newsroom staffers just a few months ago.
They also come on the same day the Times was nominated for its first-ever Academy Award for the documentary short film “The Last Repair Shop,” which is about Los Angeles Unified School District employees who repair musical instruments.
The L.A. Times Guild staged a one-day walkout on Friday in protest of the planned layoffs.
The process is expected to unfold over the next 30 days.
A group of 10 members of Congress wrote a letter to Soon-Shiong and the guild on Monday, expressing hope that “drastic” cuts could be avoided.
In response, Soon-Shiong urged the lawmakers to support legislation that would help the paper address its financial challenges.
“We’ve put hundreds of millions of dollars — approaching $1 billion — over the past five years into the L.A. Times, and we are committed to continuing to invest while we work to get the paper on a path to sustainability,” Soon-Shiong wrote.
Soon-Shiong bought the paper for $500 million in 2018 and went about reinvigorating it by adding 150 editorial staffers. The paper grew its digital subscriber base to more than 550,000 by the middle of last year, which was double the figure from 2020 though still short of its goals.
Like other outlets that cover Hollywood, the publication also lost revenue amid the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA strikes last year.
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