The Athletic on Friday became the latest digital media organization to be hit with layoffs and pay cuts amid the coronavirus crisis, when 8% of staffers were laid off and all remaining staffers had their salaries temporarily cut.
“With sports on pause due to the ongoing pandemic, today we made the difficult decision to reduce the size of our staff in select coverage areas, affecting approximately eight percent of employees,” a spokesperson told TheWrap.
The spokesperson added, “While we are hopeful that sports will soon resume, this measure was necessary to ensure that the company can weather the uncertainty that lies ahead. Overall, our subscriber base remains steady and we are proud of our newsroom’s continuing coverage of the return of sports.”
The spokesperson also confirmed that most staff were asked to take a pay cut, with the lowest amount starting at 10%, until the end of the year. Those making more than $150,000 will take progressively higher cuts. The staffers laid off will get four weeks’ salary, payout of their unused paid time off and health insurance premiums paid until the end of the year, as well as the permanent ownership of company equipment like personal laptops.
In August 2019, the ad-free hyper-local subscription sports website crossed the 500,000 subscriber mark three years after its launch and CEO and co-founder Alex Mather was setting ambitious goals for 2020. As seen in the staggering number of layoffs and pay cuts in newsrooms across the country, 2020 hasn’t gone according to plan for digital media companies, as it hasn’t in most industries.
The Athletic’s journalists began posting to Twitter about the layoffs Friday afternoon. Los Angeles sportswriter Brett Dawson reflected, “This morning The Athletic announced layoffs of 46 staffers. I’m one of them. For two years, I got to be a part of the best sports writing team in America. I got to cover the Lakers. I’m deeply sorry that it’s ending, but it has been one of the great experiences of my life.”
Boxing staff writer Rafe Bartholomew wrote, “Got my final day offboarding invite from The Athletic just now. Checked my stats this morning: Wrote 206,814 words in just under a year. Glad I tried writing full-time. So it goes.”