2013 starts with layoffs

Although the media industry has embraced the concept of experimentation and evolution, layoffs are still an inevitable part of the cost-cutting and change the industry continues to undergo. According to HollyWoodReporter.com, however, media-sector jobs improved from 7,720 layoffs in 2011 to 5,641 in 2012. But that doesn’t mean they’re not happening. In 2013, a variety of big name publications have announced layoffs, buyouts and furloughs.

  • Reuters laid off staff early in the New Year, with at least nine on the editorial side. Barb Burg, vice president and global head of communications at Reuters, told Talking Biz News that the cuts were made to focus on the “global cost structure.” The New York Observer reported that approximately 3,000 employees were let go, most from the financial sector. But from the editorial side, there were some big name staffers who ended up on the wrong side of the cut. According to TalkinBizNews, this included Peter Bohan, editor of Reuters America Service, Brad Dorfman, U.S. retail and consumer products company news editor, and Lee Aitken, head of political coverage at the news organization.
  • Advance Newspapers, which is undergoing a transformation one newspaper at a time as the company takes a more digital approach, reportedly is letting 60 employees go company-wide. Thirty-four of those layoffs will be from the Star-Ledger. The Associated Press reported that the Express-Times in Easton, Pa., would layoff 12, the South Jersey Times would cut 11 and the last three would be let go from a group of weekly papers Advance Publishes in central and western New Jersey. Star-Ledger publisher Richard Vezza told the AP that financial pressures and an advertising downturn made worse by Superstorm Sandy contributed to the layoffs.
  • The Fort Worth Star-Telegram also reportedly is undergoing a round of layoffs and released a memo last month announcing that certain staff members would also be forced to take a one-week unpaid furlough. Among staffers let go was longtime consumer watchdog columnist Dave Lieber. His termination left many scratching their heads, Fort Worth Weekly reported. According to the weekly paper, he was “an enthusiastic and absolutely tireless promoter of himself, his column and the newspaper.” But despite the loss of his job, the columnist himself was optimistic and will continue on to new projects, while continuing to write for his website, Watchdog Nation.
  • In December, New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson announced that the Times would be offering 30 newsroom buyouts to avoid layoffs. Those that took buyouts reportedly included reporter Jacques Steinberg, columnist Joyce Wadler and special sections and development editor Alice DuBois, who joined BuzzFeed. Managing editor John Geddes also took a buyout, as did classical music editor James Oestreich. As of Feb. 2, Poynter reported that at least 20 newsroom employees had taken the voluntary buyouts.
  • Lee Enterprises recently announced it would be creating three regional design hubs for its newspapers across the country, where design staffers will help produce customized news, sports and feature pages. As a result, Jim Romenesko reported last week that the Quad City Times will eliminate 12 newsroom positions, while the Racine Journal Times in Wisconsin is rumored to have let five copy editors go. Additionally, he reported that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch lost two senior copy editors.
  • According to KCRG.com, Meredith Corp. has cut 60 positions as it integrates new acquisitions that include AllRecipes.com, Every Day with Rachael Ray and FamilyFun. On the other hand, the company also added 300 jobs focused on digital products when it acquired its newest assets.
  • Time Inc., is laying off 480 employees, or roughly six percent of its staff. The New York Post reported that health editor in chief Ellen Kunes and Real Simple publisher Sally Preston are both out.
  • Last but not least, the Washington Post is rumored to have laid off approximately 54 employees, according to FishBowlDC. So far, however, it looks to be only on the business side.

Not exactly a great start to 2013, but publishers tend to do their housekeeping at the beginning of the year. There are still many months ahead before this can be deemed a yearlong trend.

–Katrina M. Mendolera