Layoffs Loom Over LA Times, Tribune Publishing Announces Buyouts Program

Roughly 50 staffers expected to be cut from Times’ ranks if voluntary buyouts program doesn’t shrink staffing enough

Last Updated: October 5, 2015 @ 12:45 PM

Tribune Publishing launched a voluntary employee buyout program on Monday in hopes of cutting its editorial ranks company-wide as it bumps up digital efforts across its media properties.

“Any non union employee with more than one year of service will be eligible to participate in the program,” CEO Jack Griffin wrote in a memo Monday.

As part of the “Employee Voluntary Separation Program,” eligible employees will receive buyout offers within five business days and have until Oct. 23 to give management their decision.

If the company doesn’t get enough volunteers, there may be involuntary layoffs. Those cuts will hit the Los Angeles Times hardest with 50 positions expected to be cut after buyouts. This would shrink the Times’ newsroom to around 450 positions.

Griffin praised the accomplishments of the Times and other Tribune outlets in a memo sent to staff and obtained by CNN. He was also straightforward about the company’s future.

“In the challenging revenue environment that all publishing companies face, it is critical that we make hard decisions and take the necessary steps that continue to position Tribune Publishing Company for success over the long term,” he said.

The layoffs at the Times come after Tribune fired L.A. Times publisher Austin Beutner in September on the heels of continued financial losses.

Shares in Tribune Publishing have been in a freefall in the last year, down over 50 percent, leaving the company’s market value at $295 million and its stock price at $11 a share.

The L.A. Times is still a behemoth, ranking fourth among U.S. newspapers in daily circulation (489,000 daily readers) after the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today.

But in the last decade, no major daily paper has hemorrhaged readership faster than the L.A. Times.

Beutner didn’t stop the bleeding either: Daily circulation is down to 489,000 readers compared to 739,147 daily readers in early 2014.

A bright spot for the Los Angeles daily has been digital traffic; the L.A. Times ranked seventh in website unique visitors for national newspapers, according to State of the News Media’s 2015 report, making CEO Griffin’s focus on digital more sensible.