Times editor John Carroll confirmed to the staff late today that buyouts and possibly layoffs are coming. His email echoes, and expands only somewhat, on the earlier message from publisher John Puerner. Carroll's email follows, but for readers who are not part of the L.A. media community, here's why this is a running L.A. Observed story. First, cuts at the LAT can affect the journalism and staff lineup in the region's dominant newsroom, and spill over to other publications. Plus, the Times is the highest-paying newspaper in town and many reporters, editors, designers and photographers who read here aspire to work there. Also, LAT cost-cutting ripples through the freelance ranks, invariably reducing the number of assignments that L.A. journalists receive. Finally, as the monolith that people love to hate, anything that happens at the Times has some voyeuristic appeal.
In Carroll's email, Janet Clayton is the incoming editor over state and local news coverage, Mike Kinsley the incoming editor of the editorial pages, and Joe Hutchinson the Deputy Managing Editor for graphics and design.
From: Carroll, John
Sent: Tuesday, June 08, 2004 4:48 PM
Subject: To the staff
As you are aware, we are making cuts in the newsroom budget. They will touch several areas, including, most sensitively, staffing. We will soon offer a voluntary buyout, which, depending on the number of takers, may be followed by an involuntary layoff.
It is our job to see that this proves to be a relatively minor event in the long-term building of a first-rate newspaper. In my four years here, we have been blessed with smooth sailing, which has allowed us to build rapidly. Our peers have not been so fortunate. Since the dot-com collapse, the Wall Street Journal has been in a period of belt-tightening that greatly exceeds anything we're contemplating. The Washington Post recently used a voluntary buyout to take 54 journalists out of its newsroom. I'm not aware of any recent cuts at the New York Times, but over the last year or so its newsroom has had more than its share of disruption. Such are the vicissitudes of newspaper life these days.
My goal for the Los Angeles Times is to get through this period in a way that is fair, humane and swift. At the same time, we must keep our minds on two things: First, of course, is covering the news aggressively and producing a vibrant paper every day. Second, we must press forward with longer-term initiatives. Some are already underway. In metro, Janet Clayton will officially take charge next week, and I'm confident that she'll have a decidedly positive effect on California coverage. In editorial, Mike Kinsley will succeed Janet with a goal of improving our already strong editorial, op-ed and Sunday Opinion pages.
Later, we will introduce the long-planned redesign of the news sections. Joe Hutchinson's prototypes offer subtle changes that will make the visual voice of the paper more articulate, authoritative and elegant.
Before the financial problem arose, I had scheduled a retreat this week with ranking editors to consider their ideas for moving the paper forward. We have forgone the two days at Laguna Beach, alas, but the ideas will get every consideration, and we'll push ahead with the most promising of them. Additional ideas from all quarters will be warmly received. My hope is that at the end of the year we can look back and say that the paper is markedly better than it was in June.
That's a tall order, but with your help it can be done. My thanks in advance to all.