On Tuesday January 23, 2024, one of the 100-plus reporters who was laid off via Webinar from the Los Angeles Times, stated it was “like a drive-by,” as it was clear that very few at this iconic 142-year-old newspaper had any idea, that in a matter of minutes, they were told that more than 20% of their staff was to be let go.
And when events like this take place within a unionized newsroom, the workforce looks towards their guild leadership for help and support. Those tasks fell quickly on the shoulders of Matt Pearce, an 11-year veteran reporter at the Times and for past 4-years President of the Media Guild of the West, a chapter of the NewsGuild-CWA, representing over one-thousand journalists at the Los Angeles Times along with the Dallas Morning News, Arizona Republic, Southern California News Group, Austin American-Statesman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Phoenix New Times and Desert Sun and other properties.
It was only five years ago when the news team cheered when they were introduced to Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the American transplant surgeon, billionaire, businessman and bio scientist who returned the paper to local ownership after 18 years, when he purchased for $500-million dollars, the Times, along with the San Diego Union-Tribune, from Chicago-based tronc. 2018 reporting directly after the deal was announced, stated that Shiong had “grand plans to restore the Times to greatness, stating: ‘The legacy of this paper is important to save, so what price is that worth?”
Shiong announced the hiring of well-respected executive editor, former Wall Street Journal and Time Inc. Exec Norman Pearlstine along with 80 new staffers including New York Times editor Sewell Chan and former Slate editor in chief Julia Turner. It was later reported in The Wall Street Journal that Shiong by investing strongly in news assets would easily achieve profitably by massively growing their digital subscriber base. In 2019 Shiong proclaimed: “I have made a decision to invest what it will take to make sure that the Los Angeles Times remains a viable business for at least another 100 years. When we get to five million ultimately, that will make that possible.”
In July of 2023, the digital subscriber base was reported at slightly over 500-thousand, when the Times announced the launching of De Los, a new brand focused on identity and culture targeted to English-speaking Gen Z and millennial Latinos in the U.S. However, on January 23, 2023, it looks like this new venture will cease, since the union’s negotiated “first in, first out” departure strategy reportedly resulted in that a large portion of those layoffs, included newly hired diverse staffers.
In this episode of “E&P Reports,” we finally get an inside look at the newsroom of the LA Times, just a week after the surprising firing of over 20% of their unionized workforce from News Media West Guild president, Matt Pearce. We learn about how the firing process took place via Webinar, how the Union reacted to the unexpected downsizing, and what they are doing now in retaliation.
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