Jan 18, 2024 - Business

LA Times staff plans walkout ahead of steep job cuts

Illustration of a crumbling newspaper

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Los Angeles Times union plans a one-day, multi-city walkout on Friday in protest of sweeping job cuts that are imminently expected.

Why it matters: It's the first newsroom work stoppage in LA Times' history. It comes amid broader business and cultural challenges at the storied paper.

  • Two weeks ago, the paper's executive editor Kevin Merida resigned, reportedly over disagreements with billionaire owner Patrick Soon-Shiong over editorial interference, among other issues.
  • The paper was forced to cut 74 newsroom staffers in June 2023 amid advertising declines.
  • The paper is reportedly losing $50 million a year, per The Wrap.

Details: In a statement announcing the walkout, LA Times Guild said that in addition to Los Angeles employees, staffers in Sacramento, Washington and elsewhere would also be abstaining from work for the day.

  • The announcement followed an emergency meeting with the Guild Thursday, following an internal announcement from LA Times management to staffers that it intended to lay off a sizable number of journalists.
  • The Guild said LA Times' management had asked it "to gut seniority protections in our union contract so they have vastly more freedom to pick whom to lay off."
  • "Times management has asked the Guild to make an impossible decision," the Guild wrote. "If we agree to their request, they could lay off almost any of our members. It is union-busting at its core and presents a false choice for preserving diversity within our ranks."

By the numbers: The union said it couldn't provide a number of estimated staff cuts, "because management has insisted on negotiating in meetings that are off the record," but the LA Times reported that the plan "is to lay off at least 100 journalists, or about 20% of the newsroom."

  • That would represent "the largest staff cut since the paper was owned by Tribune Co.," the LA Times notes. The LA Times was sold to Patrick Soon-Shiong by Tribune in 2018.

Between the lines: The Guild has three demands for management pertaining to the walk-out.

  1. It wants management to publicly articulate a clear head count or salary reduction they're aiming for, and wants buyouts to take place that can be credited against the layoff total
  2. It wants management to hold an all-hands town hall to "articulate a clear road map for revenue growth and not just cost reductions."
  3. It wants ownership to convene a search and selection committee that would include multiple Guild representatives for the next executive editor.

The big picture: Billionaires were once seen as the saviors of news, but years later, it's become evident that even the richest people in the world can't save the industry from steep advertising declines.

  • In addition to LA Times, The Washington Post and The Atlantic — both owned by billionaires, are not profitable.
  • The Washington Post was set to lose more than $100 million last year.

Go deeper: The news business faces a reckoning in 2024

Go deeper