Washington Post Caps Off Tumultuous Year With More Layoff News

The Washington Post will see a new wave of layoffs in the first quarter of 2023, publisher Fred Ryan announced in a town hall on Wednesday, ending a tumultous year at the historic newsroom on a sobering note.

The Post confirmed the news in a statement on Wednesday. “The Washington Post is evolving and transforming to put our business in the best position for future growth. We are planning to direct our resources and invest in coverage, products, and people in service of providing high value to our subscribers and new audiences,” wrote chief communications officer Kathy Baird.

“As a result, a number of positions will be eliminated. We anticipate it will be a single digit percentage of our employee base, and we will finalize those plans over the coming weeks,” she said.

The news led to a flurry of pushback from members of the Post Guild, the union representing Post staffers. The guild listed a number of questions it planned to ask Ryan on Twitter on Tuesday, noting the Post does not permit live questions. The guild is currently bargining a new contract with the paper.

But in the Wednesday morning meeting—which ran over its standard hourlong runtime, according to a Post source—Ryan consolidated questions solely on the layoffs. After the announcement, Ryan ended the call without taking further questions, including ones shouted by Guild members, according to a video posted by national political reporter Annie Gowan.

The Post said the cuts would not result in a net headcount reduction, claiming it would ramp up investment in other areas of the newsroom throughout 2023. The wave of cuts, however, come after 10 staffers from the paper’s magazine were laid off, and represent a dramatic escalation in a media landscape bereft with job losses and cost-cutting measures.

CNN, BuzzFeed, and Gannett all drastically slashed their workforces earlier this month—including a six percent reduction in Gannett’s news staff—while NPR announced it would impose a hiring freeze and slash its budgets. The public radio service also canceled its 2023 summer internship program, citing economic woes.

The news caps a head-spinning year for the paper, which thrived during the Trump administration but has seen its subscribers fall and its revenue dwindle in the years since.

Earlier this year, and shortly after the one-year mark for executive editor Sally Buzbee, the paper suspended its star political reporter David Weigel after a sexist retweet was called out by political breaking news reporter Felicia Sonmez. After a week of staff infighting and debates over internal policy inequities, including multiple condemnations by Buzbee, Sonmez was fired and a new social media policy was put in place.

Tensions continued, however, as the Post imposed a strict enforcement policy for employees returning to the office that included monitoring staffers’ badge swipes and sending threatening memos to those who didn’t frequent the office enough.

The effects have materialized in top staff departures. Managing editors Tracy Grant, Kat Downs Mulder, and Steven Ginsberg have all departed within the last six months to run other publications, while the paper’s chief technology officer Shailesh Prakash left in September to spearhead Google News.

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