Brutal week for American Journalism Jobs
Journalism Traders – 200 layoffs at BuzzFeed; 250 layoffs at Vice; 800 layoffs at properties owned by Verizon, including HuffPost and Yahoo; more than 1,000 layoffs or buyout offers at newspapers owned Gannett, McClatchy, and GateHouse.
CJR .org Jon Allsop reports 7.03.2019 – BETWEEN JANUARY AND MAY THIS YEAR, approximately 3,000 people working in the news industry were laid off or offered a buyout. That’s according to figures compiled by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.—a Chicago-based firm that helps workers find new employment—and reported yesterday in a depressing article by Bloomberg’s Gerry Smith. The industry, Smith writes, is on course for its worst year jobs-wise since 2009. Back then, the Great Recession had hammered the economy across the board; now, with America’s unemployment rate at a 50-year low, journalism is a notable outlier. “In most industries, employers can’t find enough people to fill the jobs they have open,” Andrew Challenger, vice president at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, tells Smith. “In news, it has been the opposite story. And it seems to have been accelerating.”
The decline of the media job market, especially in print, is nothing new. But 2019 has been particularly brutal. All job losses are not equal—layoffs are not buyouts are not firings—and different publications have their own specific problems beyond malign, industry-wide revenue trends. Nonetheless, by my rough, incomprehensive count, this year has seen: 200 layoffs at BuzzFeed; 250 layoffs at Vice; 800 layoffs at properties owned by Verizon, including HuffPost and Yahoo; more than 1,000 layoffs or buyout offers at newspapers owned by Gannett, McClatchy, and GateHouse; the loss of every staff writer at the East Bay Express, a California alt-weekly; at least 43 layoffs at the Dallas Morning News, 23 at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12 at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and 45 at The Penny Hoarder, a personal-finance publication in Florida; the loss of 16 full-time and 16 part-time/freelance positions at New York Media, owner of New York magazine; the firing of Ebony’s seven-person digital team; 11 business-side job losses at Quartz; and at least six job cuts at Pennsylvania’s Reading Eagle, with 81 more threatened to follow.
In January, as the mass layoffs at BuzzFeed, Verizon, and Gannett bit at the same time, I wrote that it had been “a brutal week for American journalism.” The week just gone has been less brutal, by the numbers; nonetheless, we’ve seen a further flurry of very bad media-job news. On Friday, First Look Media—which already, in March, cut its research team and shuttered The Intercept’s database of documents leaked by Edward Snowden—announced that it would be closing Topic, an online magazine, and defunding The Nib, a comics publication. The Nib will continue under the management of its editor, Matt Bors, but six of Topic’s nine digital-content staff will be laid off. (Three video staffers will stay with First Look.) “It’s an understatement to say that we’re bummed,” Anna Holmes, Topic’s editor, tweeted yesterday. Jelani Cobb, who was working on a project with Topic, asked Pierre Omidyar, First Look’s billionaire benefactor: “what is the standard for success?” Topic “just won two national magazine awards,” Cobb tweeted. “I remember Anna Holmes telling me she’s just the 3rd African American EIC to do this. And now… this? Really?”
Also Friday, management at The Vindicator, a newspaper in Youngstown, Ohio, told staff that the paper will close in August as it has not been able to find a buyer. As Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton wrote yesterday, this is even more disturbing than your average story of local-news decline. Youngstown—a city of 65,000 people—will now not have a paper at all. And it’s scary that even private-equity-backed publishers wouldn’t touch The Vindicator: “The tricks they’ve been using—cut staff, outsource editing, outsource production, regionalize ad sales—apparently weren’t worth trying in Youngstown,” Benton writes. By his count, the paper has 24 journalists who will soon be looking for work. In all, 144 full-time jobs will be lost. Newspaper carriers will take the hit, too.
Jobs have been lost, too, in New Orleans, where the merger between two local papers—the Advocate and the Times-Picayune—took effect yesterday. When the Advocate acquired the Times-Picayune, all 161 of the latter paper’s employees were laid off. The Advocate said some of them would land at the new, merged title. Per Poynter’s Samantha Sunne, only around 22 staffers have transitioned over, 10 of whom are journalists. Of the Times-Picayune’s 55 remaining editorial employees, some rejected the Advocate’s offer, citing low pay; at least 19 have yet to find a new journalism job elsewhere; and six said they’re quitting the industry altogether to be able to stay in New Orleans.
The 3,000 job-loss figure is already, sadly out of date. Smith’s Bloomberg article, nonetheless, is a shocking wake-up call. In May, two days after the Times-Picayune was sold, The Wall Street Journaldropped a comprehensive story zooming out on the dire state of the news industry. I wrote then that in “forcing us to step back and confront the bigger picture,” stories like the Journal’s “often land more forcefully than the daily accumulation of grim examples.” Smith’s does likewise.