Deep layoffs began Monday at SoCal News Group

breeze-photo-desk-osier.jpgThe Daily Breeze photo desk after layoffs on Monday. Posted to Twitter by Valerie Osier.

At least 10 staffers in sports and a whole bunch of photographers were let go Monday by the Southern California News Group papers. The cuts were telegraphed just over a week ago in somber Friday afternoon staff gatherings. Today the first journalists found out their jobs were ending.

At the Los Angeles Daily News, longtime sports columnist Tom Hoffarth tweeted tonight that he was one the departing. Hoffarth, as far as I know, was the last local sports staffer covering sports media. His diligence on the beat and regional memory will be hugely missed. He was with the Daily News for 26 years, and before that spent 10 years at the Daily Breeze.

The staff gatherings were told a week ago that the photo staffs would be hard hit, and it appears that they were. We only know details this far about the Daily Breeze. There, a tweet by reporter Valerie Osier reported that nearly all of the photographers were laid off. Elsewhere on social media it was reported there was one Breeze photographer left. Staffers speculated that reporters would start taking pictures for stories now.

From the veteran Daily Breeze reporter:

We'll pass along more precise details of the toll as they become available. But folks, this is the unraveling of local journalism in Southern California at a level those who live here have never experienced. The managers of the SoCal News Group have already said that this week's firings are just the first of three waves, to be followed next month by the news side and in March by page designers. There's no reason to think it will stop there, since the motivation appears to be to cut costs so that Digital First Media, the parent company of the news group, can be sold off by its hedge fund owner. similar deep cuts are happening at the DFM papers in Northern California, including the San Jose Mercuty — which used to have a 400-person newsroom, but now is down to 39.

The dirtier politicians, bureaucrats, slumlords and scammers of the LA area were already fairly free of journalistic scrutiny, as local journalism has weakened over recent decades. Imagine what it will be like when dozens of municipal governments, school boards and special districts with taxing power and the authority to pay large salaries go fully uncovered by any journalists familiar with the players or with the backing of editors, lawyers and colleagues.

"Sadly, we have all been here before," San Diego journalist Luis Gomez posted last week at Medium titled Southern California is about to experience a journalism vacuum. And you should be scared. "It is painful not only because many of my friends will lose their jobs, but also because I know that laying off yet more journalists in already-thinned newspapers will be a disservice to many remote communities where reporters don’t often come around to ask questions, hold public officials accountable or give voice to the voiceless."

Ron Hasse, the publisher and president of Southern California News Group, said last week, before the layoffs began, that the cuts would be painful. “Southern California News Group is making some difficult but necessary decisions with respect to our newsroom staffing to find efficiencies in how we operate and better position our organization for its digital future,” Hasse said in a statement.

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