LA Times Guild Lambasts ‘Devastating’ Newsroom Layoffs: ‘It Did Not Have to Be This Way’

Blaming the paper’s billionaire owner Patrick Soon-Shiong for the cuts, the Guild says, “This staffing cut is the fruit of years of middling strategy … and no clear direction”

The Los Angeles Times building
The Los Angeles Times building (Credit: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Times Guild responded to mass layoffs being implemented on Tuesday, blaming owner Patrick Soon-Shiong and saying the job cuts are “the fruit of years of middling strategy, the absence of a publisher and no clear direction.”

On Tuesday, the LA Times began notifying those impacted by the cuts, which includes 115 staffers, of which 94 are union members. The cuts represent more than 20 percent of the newsroom.

“It is still unclear who is in charge of our newsroom more than a week after our executive editor resigned,” the guild wrote in a statement. 

The guild staged a one-day work stoppage on Friday in response to looming job cuts, and according to the union statement on Tuesday, “We believe our decision to go on strike saved scores of newsroom jobs today.”

The statement also noted that in the 2019 contract, “management can offer buyouts on any day and at any time — a far more humane way to make cuts during a fiscal crisis of our company’s own making.

“Instead, The Times chose long-planned mass layoffs via a webinar in which staff members weren’t allowed so much as a question,” the guild continued.

The union wrote, “Slashing a quarter of the newsroom is devastating by any measure — to our members and their families, to our morale, to the quality of our journalism, to the bond with our audience, and to the communities that depend on our work.”

The guild also pointed out that the LA Times management failed to deliver on promises “to diversify its ranks since young journalists of color have been disproportionately affected.”

“The Black, AAPI, and Latino Caucuses have suffered devastating losses,” the guild statement read. “Voluntary buyouts could have helped prevent this, but that’s not the path the company chose.”

Throughout the statement, the guild blasted Soon-Shiong for his public comments to the LA Times earlier on Tuesday, noting:

“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.”

Soon-Shiong added: “Despite these difficulties, we made a deliberate decision to abstain from implementing layoffs within our newsroom during the COVID pandemic, maintaining the newsroom headcount throughout until the last several months despite the losses.

“The Times’ owner has sought to shift the blame for these layoffs away from himself and onto the union,” the statement said. “We wholeheartedly reject that.”

“This staffing cut is the fruit of years of middling strategy, the absence of a publisher, and no clear direction,” the union wrote. “It is still unclear who is in charge of our newsroom more than a week after our executive editor resigned.”

Since executive editor Kevin Merida departed the publication, two managing editors Shani Hilton and Sara Yasin have followed suit, resigning from their roles.

The guild mentioned their appreciation for Soon-Shiong’s investment in the newspaper, “But it’s clear that those entrusted to steward his family’s largesse have failed him — not the rank-and-file staff members with no say in editorial priorities.”

“We still believe in the Los Angeles Times and the important role it plays in a vibrant democracy,” the union continued. “But a newspaper can’t play that role when its staff has been cut to the bone.”

“Today has been gutting. But the Guild will not be deterred or intimidated,” the statement concluded.

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