The Los Angeles Times said Tuesday that it was cutting at least 115 jobs — or more than 20% of its 500-person newsroom — marking one of the largest workforce reductions in the newspaper’s 142-year-old history.
The layoffs come at a volatile time for the publication, which is not only projecting another year of heavy losses but also is searching for a new executive editor after Kevin Merida stepped down earlier this month over billionaire owner Patrick Soon-Shiong’s alleged editorial interference, among other issues, according to reports.
On Tuesday, Soon-Shiong called the cuts “necessary” in an interview with The LA Times, noting that the paper “could no longer lose $30 million to $40 million a year without making progress toward building higher readership that would bring in advertising and subscriptions to sustain the organization.”
The healthcare mogul added that drastic changes were needed, including bringing in new leaders who would focus on strengthening the newspaper’s journalism to become “indispensable” to more readers.
“Today’s decision is painful for all, but it is imperative that we act urgently and take steps to build a sustainable and thriving paper for the next generation. We are committed to doing so,” Soon-Shiong said.
According to Matt Pearce, president of Media Guild West, which represents LA Times staffers, roughly 94 of the 115 cuts will be among unionized employees.
“This total, while devastating, is nonetheless far lower than the total number of Guild layoffs initially expected last week,” Pearce posted on X once news of the cuts broke.
Soon-Shiong expressed “disappointment” in his LA Times interview that tthe Guild chose to stage a one-day walkout last Friday, which the said “did not help.” Instead, Soon-Shiong said the union should have devised a plan with management that could have “saved jobs.”
The Guild did not immediately respond for comment, but at the time of the strike, it had made demands for management to provide a headcount or salary reduction that they were aiming for. They also asked for buyouts to take place that could be credited against the layoff total.
The union also called for an all-hands meeting to “articulate a clear road map for revenue growth and not just cost reductions,” as well as ownership to create a search and selection committee that would include Guild reps for the next executive editor.
Soon-Shiong has expressed frustration with past leadership and their attempts to build the Los Angeles Times Studios, a production arm that would take the paper’s journalism to more consumers via documentaries and podcasts.
The owner said Merida and several other high-ranking editors, who recently left, were not getting the job done.
Merida has said he left the outlet over disagreements with Soon-Shiong over his role as top editor and strategy, as well as the size of layoffs.
“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 told The LA Times.
“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,” he added.
The owner said he’s invested almost $1 billion in the paper — after buying it for $500 million from Tribune Co., then called Tronc, in 2018.
“We are not in turmoil. We have a real plan,” he said.