Economic Gloom: After Tech Giants, Layoffs Rock US Media

New Delhi: US media are facing tough times. From CNN to the Washington Post, a series of outlets have announced layoffs this winter amid fears of an economic downturn. Vox Media, owner of the Vox and The Verge websites as well as the landmark New York Magazine and its online platforms, announced Friday it was letting go of seven per cent of its staff. The news follows layoffs at CNN, NBC, MSNBC, Buzzfeed and other outlets, news agency AFP reported.

In a memo to staff on Friday, Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff announced “the difficult decision to eliminate roughly seven percent of our staff roles across departments due to the challenging economic environment impacting our business and industry.”

The memo, which was confirmed to AFP by Vox Media, said the affected employees were going to be notified of being let go within the next 15 minutes. That would mean some 130 out of the group’s 1,900 staff. Meghan McCarron, an award-winning journalist who spent more than nine years at Eater, a food website owned by Vox Media, tweeted Friday she was among those laid off — while 37 weeks pregnant.

A Vox spokesperson told AFP they could not comment on specific cases, but that employees were offered “competitive severance packages,” including extra severance pay for those with “a near-term upcoming parental leave planned.”

The media layoffs were a consequence of falling advertising revenue amid a gloomy economic climate, said Chris Roush, Dean of the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. “For a lot of them, they grew and expanded on the expectation that they were going to be able to grow their audience, or either readers or viewers to a certain level,”  Roush told AFP.”And that just hasn’t happened and is unlikely to happen given what’s happening in the economy.”

Newsroom employment has seen a steady decline in the United States, falling from 114,000 to 85,000 journalists between 2008 and 2020, according to a 2021 study by the Pew Research Center, with local media hit especially hard.

“Journalism has been under pressure for a long time, and a number of companies seem to think this is an opportune time to reduce their labor costs – hurting both journalists and journalism,” the Writers Guild of America, East said in a statement to AFP.

The union comprises journalists from NBC and MSNBC. The two outlets, which declined an AFP request for comment, bid farewell to some 75 employees, according to US media.

A similar announcement is dreaded at the Washington Post, where CEO Fred Ryan warned last month that “a number of positions” will be cut in the following weeks, adding that the layoffs would affect “a single digit percentage of our employee base” of some 2,500 people. Hires for other positions can continue, the paper said.

The Washington Post Magazine, the paper’s Sunday supplement which won two Pulitzer prizes, was shut down in December as part of what executive editor Sally Buzbee described in a memo as the paper’s “global and digital transformation.”

And Vice Media CEO Nancy Dubuc announced to her staff Friday that the company is up for sale.


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