Job losses loom at the L.A. Times after parent company Tribune Publishing submitted a long-expected buyout offer to its employees this morning.
The Chicago newspaper conglomerate is seeking to cut costs amid declining revenue. A sign of the company’s predicament could be seen on Monday’s front page of the L.A. paper – a third of which featured an ad for American Airlines, leaving room for only three news articles. While it’s more important than ever for the paper to increase advertising, the conspicuous layout of the ad prompted criticism on social media with readers tweeting comments ranging from “disgusted” to “end of the world.”
It’s certainly the end of the road for many staffers downtown. While the cuts are companywide across Tribune’s 10 papers, no other publication is expected to be as hard hit as the Times. The local paper has hemorrhaged readership faster than any major title in the nation, according to reports, with daily circulation down to 489,000 compared with 739,147 daily readers as recently as early 2014.
However, it remains the fourth best-selling newspaper in the country.
At least 50 editorial positions, or one tenth of the newsroom, are expected to be axed from the Times as the cost cutting continues, with Tribune prepared to start laying off employees if the voluntary buyouts don’t shrink staffing enough, according to CNN.
Tribune Chief Executive Jack Griffin announced the “Voluntary Separation Program” in a memo to employees, declaring: “We must adapt our current cost structure and business model to meet changing times.”
Griffin also said workers will have until Oct. 23 to consider the terms of the buyout and make a decision about whether or not to apply. The program is open to non-union employees with more than one year of service.
Employees who have worked at the Times between one and 10 years are being offered one week of base pay for each year of service. Employees would also receive additional weeks of severance for each decade they have spent at Tribune Publishing.
Tribune is also dangling a big carrot for its older staffers to take the deal. After Dec. 31, the company will no longer offer retiree medical benefits. However, anyone eligible for such coverage that accepts the buyout will receive those benefits for as long as the company still offers them.
The Times has been in turmoil since the controversial firing last month of publisher Austin Beutner and the announcement that Tim Ryan, publisher of the Tribune-owned Baltimore Sun, would replace him.
The move has prompted widespread calls to restore local ownership to the paper and also led to speculation over Los Angeles billionaires preparing bids for the paper.
Shares in Tribune have plummeted by more than half since April and closed at $8.15 on Monday.
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