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Jan. 23, 2024, 4:02 p.m.
Business Models

The LA Times lays off 115 people, with the De Los and Washington, D.C. teams especially hard-hit

“We are not in turmoil. We have a real plan,” the paper’s owner, billionaire businessman Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, said.

The Los Angeles Times laid off 23% of its newsroom on Tuesday — one of the largest cuts in the paper’s 142-year history, according to the paper’s own reporting. Around 385 newsroom positions remain.

“We are not in turmoil. We have a real plan,” the paper’s owner, billionaire businessman Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, told L.A. Times reporter Meg James. (The story did not elaborate on the plan.) The LA Times had laid off 74 people in June 2023.

The layoffs followed reports that the Times lost “$30 million to $40 million” last year. Earlier this month, executive editor Kevin Merida stepped down. Managing editors Sara Yasin and Shani Hilton have also left. On January 19, the LA Times Guild staged the first-ever work stoppage in the paper’s history to protest the coming layoffs. Nearly 90% of guild members walked off the job that day, according to the Guild’s Twitter.

The cuts include innovative initiatives that Nieman Lab has covered in the past, like Latino-focused vertical De Los and the 404 “meme team”. Both projects aimed to attract new and younger audiences.

My informal count of LA Times staffers tweeting that they were laid off suggests some initial trends in the cuts, with the De Los team and the Washington, D.C. bureau seemingly especially hard-hit.

Among the layoffs: three De Los reporters, a De Los assistant editor, a De Los culture columnist, a congressional reporter based in Washington, D.C., the Washington, D.C. bureau chief, the deputy D.C. bureau chief, a White House reporter, a national correspondent, a technology and entertainment policy reporter, an investigative reporter, two multiplatform newsletters editors, a multiplatform editor for news aggregators, two breaking news reporters, a breaking news editor, a breaking entertainment reporter, two members of the 404 “meme team,” a travel reporter, a West Coast Experiences reporter, a music editor, a music reporter, an Orange County reporter, an Asian American communities reporter, a business editor, a deputy business editor, a business reporter, an opinion columnist, a tech columnist, a Hollywood reporter, an audience engagement editor on the food desk, a food columnist and video producer, an artificial intelligence reporter, a books editor, a video producer, a video game industry reporter, a Dodgers beat writer, a sports culture critic, an Angels beat writer, an entertainment reporter, and a film reporter.

The LA Times Guild said in a statement that its contract with the paper allows management to offer guild members buyouts instead of laying people off. But buyouts were never offered, according to the Guild, and “the company has reneged on its promises to diversify its ranks since young journalists of color have been disproportionately affected.”

“This staffing cut is the fruit of years of middling strategy, the absence of a publisher, and no clear direction. It is still unclear who is in charge of our newsroom more than a week after our executive editor resigned,” the Guild’s statement says. “We remain grateful for the Soon-Shiong family’s investment in the newspaper, and we remain committed to be good-faith partners in the business and at the bargaining table. But it’s clear that those entrusted to steward his family’s largesse have failed him — not the rank-and-file staff members with no say in editorial priorities. Our owner has publicly said he has a plan for moving forward but has not shared it with any of us.”

The LA Times has not responded yet to a request for comment.

This story has been updated to include additional layoffs at the LA Times and a statement from the LA Times Guild.

Photo by Joey Zanotti being used under a Creative Commons license.

Hanaa' Tameez is a staff writer at Nieman Lab. You can reach her via email (hanaa@niemanlab.org) or Twitter DM (@HanaaTameez).
POSTED     Jan. 23, 2024, 4:02 p.m.
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