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Newsonomics: After a purge, the Los Angeles Times (still) searches for a future
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Oct. 9, 2014, 2:23 p.m.
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LINK: www.huffingtonpost.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Justin Ellis   |   October 9, 2014

The New York Times newsroom is less downsizing than it is “recalibrating,” to use a phrase from Huffington Post media reporter Michael Calderone. It’s an interesting assessment of how the Times’ several rounds of buyouts and layoffs (including the one announced last week) have shifted the makeup of the staff.

The Times plans to cut 100 newsroom positions, but the current size of the newsroom, around 1,330, is roughly the same as it was during the peak period of 2008, Calderone writes. And even with the cuts, the Times newsroom would still be among the largest in the business. Most buyouts are designed to incentivize the more seasoned workers; the more years you have with the company the more weeks you’ll likely be paid out in an exit. But the Times is investing those saved dollars in new jobs, specifically digital roles in video, mobile development, and the newly formed audience engagement team. These were among a few areas the paper identified as critical to the future of the Times in the leaked innovation report.

Calderone does the math on the many rounds of cutbacks:

The Times eliminated a number of legacy print positions through these three staff reductions, while at the same time hiring staff for digital, mobile, and video. The paper has also continued to invest in lifestyle coverage, such as T Magazine and Styles, as well as expanding divisions like data and graphics. The Times is also now building an audience engagement team. So far in 2014, the Times’ newsroom has grown by 79 staffers to its current total of 1,330.

That’s now twice the number of staffers at The Washington Post, which like the Times has been through a series of buyouts and layoffs in recent years. Even after a hiring binge under its new owner, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, the paper boasts only 650 newsroom staffers, down from a peak of 900 in the mid-2000s.

The Los Angeles Times, which had 1,200 newsroom employees in 2001, was reduced to about 550 over the next decade through a series of cutbacks. A Los Angeles Times spokesperson declined to provide the most recent newsroom figures.

Changing the makeup of a newsroom is difficult and painful work: Companies want to keep institutional knowledge but also provide openings for new talent that may be more adaptable to the changes in the industry. Sometimes those skills are mapped along generational lines — sometimes not. But here’s a useful visualization from Le Soir, the French-language newspaper in Belgium — and a place with a very different set of labor laws — that shows why media companies are eager to transform their newsrooms:

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