CNN laid off about 50 staff-members on Friday, citing technological advances and "work flow" changes, TheWrap has confirmed.
Photojournalists, technicians and librarians were laid off, though no reporters got the axe, according to individuals with knowledge of the layoffs.
"It was a complete shock. no one had any idea this was going to happen," said one shaken employee. "This is not the friendly company it used to be. And no one really knows why – the economy, the ratings or what."
The cuts come to the cable network's newsrooms in Miami, Washington D.C., New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta.
Another individual said the cuts were more than 50, and closer to 70.
Despite the cuts, a CNN spokeswoman said the network expects the number of positions to remain relatively flat over the next six months with the previous year.
Staffers at CNN told TheWrap that they were shocked at the sudden layoffs, especially given that it was employee appreciation week at the New York office, with gifts like hand cream handed out and appreciative signage decorating the building.
Nearly a dozen photojournalists were given pink slips — four in New York, five in Washington, one in Miami, and one in Los Angeles — according to an individual with knowledge.
Two of the laid-off photographers had just finished covering the Conrad Murray trial.
To save money, the network plans to transfer certain departments that can work remotely to Atlanta. CNN's graphic department was moved to Atlanta months ago, foreshadowing things to come.
In a note to staff, Jack Womack, CNN's SVP of domestic news operations, wrote that the layoffs come after a 3-year review of the cable news network's Image + Sound operations. He noted that money the network invested in its newsrooms now allowed for desk-top editing and publishing for broadcast and online, making some positions unnecessary.
"Now that we have completed this three-year review, we believe that we have the right resources in the right places and the proper staffing at Image + Sound, and that the unit is well-positioned to have an even more positive impact on our networks and platforms," Womack wrote.
Here's the full text of the message to staff.
From: Womack, Jack
Sent: Friday, November 11, 2011 3:59 PM
To: *CNN ALL Cities ImageSound (TBS); *CNN ALL Cities Tech Ops
Subject: NOTE TO STAFF
For the past three years, we have been analyzing our work process across Image + Sound, both in the field and in our editing and production areas.
Our goal has been to make sure we have the right resources in the right places to meet the demands of all of our programs. Technology investments in our newsrooms now allow more desk-top editing and publishing for broadcast and online. This evolution allows more people in more places to edit and publish than ever before. As a result of these technology and workflow changes, CNN is reducing the number of media editors in our work force in Atlanta. CNN Image + Sound will continue with high end craft editing that has positive impact on our networks and platforms.
We also spent a great deal of time analyzing how we utilize and deploy photojournalists across all of our locations in the U.S. We looked at the evolution of daytime and evening line-ups. We analyzed how stories are assigned and more importantly the ratio of stories assigned that actually make it on to our networks or platforms. We know that we have to sharpen our focus on stories assigned to ensure that this great work gets on air. We looked at production demands, down time, and international deployments. We looked at the impact of user-generated content and social media, CNN iReporters and of course our affiliate contributions in breaking news. Consumer and pro-sumer technologies are simpler and more accessible. Small cameras are now high broadcast quality. More of this technology is in the hands of more people. After completing this analysis, CNN determined that some photojournalists will be departing the company.
We cannot begin to thank these individuals enough for their service to CNN. They leave with our respect and our sincere best wishes.
Now that we have completed this three-year review, we believe that we have the right resources in the right places and the proper staffing at Image + Sound, and that the unit is well-positioned to have an even more positive impact on our networks and platforms.