The Associated Press laid off an undisclosed number of news employees Tuesday as part of the cooperative’s yearlong plan to cut worldwide payroll expenses by 10 percent.
AP spokesman Paul Colford refused to specify how many jobs were eliminated Tuesday or in previous months from the news staff and other departments throughout the company. He said the not-for-profit organization intended to realize the targeted payroll savings by the end of the year. The AP still is looking to hire people in some positions, however.
Leaders of the News Media Guild, which represents about 1,300 AP employees in the U.S., said 38 Guild-covered reporters, editors and photographers had been fired as of Tuesday night. The Guild did not have a count for how many managers and workers outside the U.S. lost their jobs.
In addition to the newsroom layoffs happening Tuesday, an undisclosed number of union-represented technicians were cut earlier.
The cost-cutting goal was set 13 months ago as the AP prepared to lower its fees for newspapers and broadcasters that have been hit by the recession and the shift of advertising to the Internet. The AP’s revenue is expected to fall about 6 percent this year to roughly $700 million.
Hoping to minimize layoffs, the AP imposed a hiring freeze late last year and offered early retirement packages to longtime employees over the summer. About 100 opted for those packages.
The AP, which is headquartered in New York, employed about 4,000 people entering this year, a number that implied about 400 jobs would be eliminated. However, the AP has said it would cut jobs held by people with a mix of wages so the cuts wouldn’t necessarily translate into a 10 percent reduction in total jobs. The AP’s salaries and other labor-related expenses totaled nearly $419 million last year, up 2 percent from 2007.
Layoffs are a rarity for the 163-year-old AP. It hasn’t faced the same degree of financial pressure as other media, which rely on advertising for most of their revenue. Veteran AP employees said they couldn’t remember anything similar happening involving news employees in the past few decades.
It comes after more than a decade of growth, propelled in part by new opportunities that the AP plumbed on the Internet. The AP’s revenue totaled $748 million last year, roughly three times the annual revenue it had before its Internet expansion began in the late 1990s.
Even so, the AP still gets about 42 percent of its revenue from U.S. newspapers and U.S. broadcasters, and their struggles finally squeezed the cooperative. After lowering its fees for U.S. newspapers by $30 million this year, the AP will reduce fees by a total of $45 million for newspapers and broadcasters next year.
To make up for the shortfall, the AP is renegotiating deals with Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and other providers of news on the Internet. The AP also is trying to crack down on unlicensed use of its content and developing new revenue models that will include more advertising.