L.A. Times to downZell 150 newsroom positions

"These moves will be difficult and painful," Times editor Russ Stanton says in a memo this afternoon that is short on details. He says the firings required will take place by Labor Day. Those cuts would take the newsroom staff to about 700, which is almost a 50% cut from the paper's peak staffing (earlier this decade or in the '90s.) Stanton says the paper, which is already wafer thin some days, will also lose 15% more pages and will be re-formatted in the fall. At that time, the print staff that has earned the paper most of its reputation (but is older and more expensive) will be combined with the younger and less news-savvy web staff. This cut — much bigger than the March buyout — looks to be, essentially, the big downgrade of LAT ambition and staff heft that previous editors-in-chief John Carroll, Dean Baquet and Jim O'Shea and ex-publisher Jeff Johnson warned against. Memos from Stanton and Publisher David Hiller after the jump.

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From: Hiller, David
Sent: Wed 7/2/2008 2:09 PM
Subject: FW: Newsroom job cuts


Last week I talked about the actions we must take to build a viable, sustainable Los Angeles Times Media Group.

A necessary, but painful, part of fixing our business for the future is getting costs in line with revenues. Russ Stanton announced today (memo below) that we are eliminating approximately 150 positions from the newsroom. In total, we are eliminating approximately 250 positions company-wide, with most business-side reductions having already taken place. Similar efforts have been undertaken all across the newspaper industry and other areas, including many of our customers in auto, real estate, banking, travel, and retail who have also had to cut their own employees - and their advertising with us.

As hard as it is to keep all this change in perspective, it is critical that we think about it in terms of the future. We must build the next generation of journalism and media and not preside over the decline of an old business model. How we think about the future, and communicate this to our customers will make all the difference.

As we move forward, our plans include:

* A re-designed flagship Los Angeles Times newspaper to debut in the fall, reflecting the work of the Reinvent team, the Spring Street Project, and related efforts underway for quite some time
* A re-designed website
* A combined multimedia newsroom to produce excellent content for both
* More targeted products for new audience segments
* A re-organized sales team fired up to turn our revenue picture around
* Increased utilization of our operating strengths so we can print and distribute newspapers and other products all across SoCal

We also need to remember that even with staff reductions, we have extraordinary and passionate people, great brands that readers and users trust, and advertising partners who want us to succeed because that is how they succeed.

Thank you for all that you do. And as we say goodbye to some of our colleagues, please join me in remembering and thanking them for helping build this great place.



From: Stanton, Russ
Sent: Wednesday, July 02, 2008 2:05 PM
Subject: Newsroom job cuts


You all know the paradox we find ourselves in: Thanks to the Internet, we have more readers for our great journalism than at any time in our history. But also thanks to the Internet, our advertisers have more choices, and we have less money. Add to that a poor economy, particularly for us in the California housing market, and you quickly see why a wave of cutbacks has swept through newsrooms this year from New York to Santa Ana.

We are not immune. As David Hiller mentioned in his memo last week we are embarking on another round of cost cutting. I deeply regret to report we will be reducing the size of our editorial staff, both print and Web, by a total of 150 positions, and reducing the number of pages we publish each week, by about 15%.

These moves will be difficult and painful. But it is absolutely crucial that as we move through this process, we must maintain our ambition and our determination to produce the highest-quality journalism in print and online, every day.

Through all of our changes, we continue to give readers terrific coverage, whether it's the continuing collapse of the housing market, public pools that have been taken over by gangs, or the controversy surrounding liver transplants at one of our most prestigious hospitals. We've provided insight into the historic presidential campaign, and we've delivered exclusive, on-the-scene looks at the brutal repression in Zimbabwe and the continuing war in Iraq. The future of The Times, in print and on the Web, depends on that kind of journalism -- exclusive, original, excellent. We will not retreat from that commitment.

I don't yet have all the details on the reductions to come, but we expect to complete these moves by Labor Day. We'll provide more information, including the severance terms, as soon as we can. As part of this process, we will be combining the print and Web staffs into a single operation with a unified budget.

I appreciate your patience, understanding and cooperation during this difficult time. John, Davan and I, and the rest of the senior editing team, will be available to answer your questions. With more than 700 people, we will remain one of the largest and best newsrooms in the country. And we will continue to be a strong and formidable presence in the business we so dearly love.

Russ Stanton
Los Angeles Times

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