On Tuesday, January 23, The Los Angeles Times announced the paper will be laying off at least 115 people, or approximately 20% of its newsroom. The move is one of the largest workforce reductions in the 142-year history of the institution. The layoffs are occurring after projections have reported another year of major losses for the publication.
Owner of the paper, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong called the cuts necessary as the L.A. Times simply can’t afford to lose $30-40M yearly without progressing toward creating a higher readership that would bring in subscriptions and advertising to further sustain the organization. Soon-Shiong said drastic changes were needed, including the installment of new leaders to focus on strengthening journalism to become indispensable to more readers.
Soon-Shiong added “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.“
The cutback comes almost six years after Soon-Shiong and his family purchased the paper and the San Diego Union-Tribune from Tribune Publishing. They paid $500M for both organizations, and the transaction ushered in a wave of growth and hiring, which came as relief following ten-plus years of weakened journalistic ambition and crushing cuts. With a new owner, The Times was positioned to rebuild, providing stout coverage of California and the West.
Unfortunately, the institution lost $60M in advertising revenue amid the COVID-19 pandemic, interrupting the anticipated turnaround. Until last summer when Hollywood’s labor unrest stirred up another dramatic pullback, the publication managed to retain its newsroom of more than 500 employees.
President and COO of The Times, Chris Argentieri said, “The economic reality of our organization is extremely challenging.” Argentieri continued in a memo to the staff, “Despite our owner’s willingness to continue to invest, we need to take immediate steps to improve our cash position.”
Over 2,500 journalism jobs disappeared in 2023 alone, as consumers have increasingly turned to social media for information and entertainment. The Times is not the only publication feeling the effects as notable outlets like The Washington Post, ABC News, NBC News, Buzzfeed News, CNN, and Conde Nast all reduced their workforce last year. The Soon-Shiong family sold the San Diego Union-Tribune in July 2023.
The announcement of layoffs on Tuesday followed a week that saw tension growing between the newsroom guild and management. Last Friday, over 350 staff members (approx. 90% of the guild-covered journalists) participated in a one-day strike, refusing to work in protest of looming cuts — a move that Soon-Shiong said “did not help the situation.” The owner was hopeful that the guild and management would work together to form a plan that could have saved jobs.
Times reporter and Media Guild of the West President Matt Pearce wrote an email to members in which he noted that a quarter of the guild lost their jobs. He stated, “It’s a dark day at the Los Angeles Times… Many departments and clusters across the newsroom will be heavily hit.”
The action on Tuesday comes seven months after more than 70 staff members were laid off in a move that was criticized for having disproportionately affected journalists of color. Both sides had previously stated they wanted to find a better way to approach the situation.
Soon-Shiong said in a statement that his family has absorbed recent-year losses that “surpassed $100M in operational and capital expenses.”
However, the owner pushed back on the notion that The Times is in turmoil. He said, “We are not in turmoil. We have a real plan,” Soon-Shiong continued. “We have an opportunity to take all the investment that we’ve made, and find a way to reposition [The Times] into a sustainable and thriving paper for the next generation.”