LA Times staff walk out over job cut threats

LA Times staff walk out over job cut threats

Los Angeles (AFP): Unionized journalists at the Los Angeles Times walked off the job Friday for the first time in the paper’s 142-year history, after management said it planned significant job cuts to help plug a gaping financial hole.

Scores of employees gathered at a park in downtown Los Angeles to protest what they said were “obscene and unsustainable” contract changes being pushed on staff at the storied outlet in America’s second-biggest city.

Others based in California state capital Sacramento and in Washington  also downed pens, labor leaders said.

“The changes to our contract that management is trying to pressure us into accepting are obscene and unsustainable,” said Brian Contreras of the Los Angeles Times Guild.

“If management thinks our financial situation is untenable, they need to come to the bargaining table in good faith and work out a buyout plan with us.”

Contreras told AFP at least 90 percent of guild members were participating in the walkout.

The action came the day after managers at the troubled paper said widening losses meant substantial job losses were unavoidable.

“We need to reduce our operating budget going into this year and anticipate layoffs,” Times spokeswoman Hillary Manning said Thursday.

“The hardest decisions to make are those that impact our employees, and we do not come to any such decisions lightly.

“We are continuing to review the revenue projections for this year and taking a very careful look at expenses and what our organization can support.”

No official number was put on the planned job cuts, but reports said it could be at least 100 journalists — around a fifth of the newsroom.

That would come on top of the 70 jobs that were lost last June.

The Thursday announcement comes days after the abrupt departure of executive editor Kevin Merida, a respected industry figure who only joined the paper in 2021 with a brief to offer stability in a time of turmoil.

The paper, like much of legacy media, has struggled to adapt to the disruptions of the internet age, particularly the loss of advertising revenue and dwindling subscriber numbers.

Billionaire owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, who bought the outlet six years ago, is understood to be subsidizing it to the tune of between $30 and $40 million a year.

The Times was once a giant on the US media stage, with correspondents all over the country and around the world.

But years of retrenchments have seen it shrink its once-mighty reach.

Critics say while it still paints itself as a national paper with a West Coast perspective, it has a much more parochial feel nowadays.