Los Angeles Times Slammed for Laying Off 20% of Its Newsroom in ‘Brutal and Inhumane’ Way

By: Georgia | Published: Jan 30, 2024

The Los Angeles Times is undergoing a significant reduction in its workforce, laying off about 115 journalists, which constitutes more than 20% of its newsroom. This decision follows a period of financial challenges and changes in leadership.

A statement from the guild criticized the layoffs, saying they were executed in a “brutal and inhumane way.” The process of layoffs was conducted via a webinar, where staff members weren’t allowed to ask questions, per the guild’s statement.

Dispute over Layoff Terms

The guild has accused the Times’ management of pushing for “extreme layoff terms” without sufficient transparency, per information from Deadline.

A group of people at a protest, with many holding up signs that read "L.A. TIMES GUILD AGAINST..." with the rest of the text obscured. The focus is on a woman in the foreground who is vocally expressing herself, her mouth open mid-chant or shout. The protestors are wearing yellow

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They stated, “The Times chose long planned mass layoffs via a webinar in which staff members weren’t allowed so much as a question.” The union also claimed that the management attempted to undermine the seniority process, potentially causing division among the staff.

Newsroom Reduced to Less than 400

Following the layoffs, the size of the newsroom has reduced significantly, now comprising fewer than 400 people, Deadline reveals.

The Los Angeles Times building captured at dusk with the illuminated signage "THE TIMES" on the facade. The building's exterior is accentuated by the warm glow of the street lights and windows

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The guild mentioned that the “staffing cut is the fruit of years of middling strategy, the absence of a publisher and no clear direction.” Despite a walkout by the guild on Friday, which they claim helped save numerous jobs, the impact of the layoffs is significant.

D.C. Bureau Decimated

Sarah Wire, a reporter at the Washington, D.C. bureau, described the situation as the bureau being “decimated” in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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She explained, “They haven’t been filling jobs for two years now and that reduced number was cut even more today. There are five reporters left covering DC.”

Layoff Notices and Guild's Reaction

According to The New York Times, the process of issuing layoff notices started with the guild’s president Matt Pearce announcing in a post on X that 94 guild members were being notified of intended layoffs.

Members of the LA Times Guild are gathered for a protest in front of a city hall building. Protesters are holding signs with messages like "Don't cut our future" and "L.A. TIMES GUILD AGAINST LAYOFFS." A woman in the foreground is speaking into a megaphone, presumably leading the demonstration, with a crowd of supporters around her

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He mentioned, “This total, while devastating, is nonetheless far lower than the total number of Guild layoffs initially expected last week.”

Financial Struggles of The Times

Patrick Soon-Shiong, the owner of the Los Angeles Times, expressed the financial difficulties faced by the paper.

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He said in an interview with the LA Times, that the paper was losing $30 million to $40 million a year, and emphasized the necessity of the layoffs, saying, “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.”


Editorial Leadership Changes and Walkout

The New York Times reports that the newsroom has seen recent high-profile departures, including managing editors Sara Yasin and Shani O. Hilton, shortly after executive editor Kevin Merida stepped down.

A dense crowd of LA Times Guild members holding up protest signs during a demonstration. The signs are predominantly yellow with black text, some reading "We can't cut our way to the future," and others stating "L.A. TIMES GUILD AGAINST LAYOFFS."

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These changes in the editorial leadership coincided with a walkout staged by the guild last Friday, protesting the anticipated cuts.


Soon-Shiong's Investment and Challenges

Since acquiring the Los Angeles Times in 2018, Soon-Shiong has invested significantly in the newspaper, yet faced substantial financial losses.

Pat Soon-Shiong wearing a blue suit and a patterned tie. He's wearing glasses and has grey hair. In the background, there's an outdoor speaker on a stand and a person

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He stated, “It is indeed difficult to reflect upon the recent tumultuous years, during which our business faced significant challenges, including losses that surpassed $100 million in operational and capital expenses,” as reported by The New York Times.


Union's Efforts and Advice to Members

The union is actively engaging in negotiations to address the layoffs, advising its members to avoid signing any documents hastily.

The Los Angeles Times building viewed from across a street, with its name prominently displayed on the top. The building is white with reflective windows and lined with palm trees. In the foreground, there's a freeway barrier with the number 46, and cars are passing by, one being a silver convertible and the other a black sedan

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The New York Times reveals that Sam Dean, a business reporter and member of the union leadership, told colleagues in an email, “Keep in mind that these proposed layoffs are not final, they are proposed and have to be bargained with the Guild.”


Impact on Diversity in the Newsroom

The Guardian reports that the layoffs have notably affected young journalists of color. The Los Angeles Times Guild stated, “Young journalists of color [were] ‘disproportionately affected’, with many Black, Asian American and Latino staffers laid off.”

A group of cheerful protesters at an LA Times Guild rally, with several individuals in the foreground laughing and chanting. They are wearing yellow and black shirts and holding signs that say "Don't cut our future" and "L.A. TIMES GUILD AGAINST LAYOFFS."

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This contradicts the Soon-Shiong family’s commitment in 2020 to diversity in the paper’s staff.


Staff Criticize Layoff Process

Former staff members of the Los Angeles Times have expressed their dissatisfaction with the manner in which the layoffs were conducted, according to The Guardian.

A screenshot of a tweet by Jared Servantez. The tweet reads: "The LA Times laid us off in an HR zoom webinar with chat disabled, no q&a, no chance to ask questions. As a colleague described it, 'that was like a drive-by.'" The user's profile picture shows a person posing with a sunflower

Source: jservantez/X

One ex-news editor described the process in a post on X, saying, “The LA Times laid us off in an HR zoom webinar with chat disabled, no q&a, no chance to ask questions.”


Broader Media Industry Struggles

The layoffs at the Los Angeles Times are part of a larger trend in the media industry, with numerous outlets across the US experiencing similar challenges, per information from NPR.

The entrance to the Los Angeles Times Special Events venue, featuring a glass door with the newspaper's name and the words "SPECIAL EVENTS" in ornate lettering above

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Soon-Shiong commented on the industry’s struggles, suggesting that lawmakers should do more to support media organizations, similar to policies in Australia and Canada, The Guardian reports. He emphasized the need for initiatives that uphold a “free and robust press, one that is instrumental in upholding our democracy.”