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The Hilltop

Variety

Journalists Believe Mass Layoffs are Jeopardizing the Future of Journalism 

Catalyzed by the changing nature of the journalism industry, journalists across the nation’s top newsrooms have been cut from their companies’ workforce.

Popular newsrooms are parting with journalists, leaving many concerned about the industry’s future. (Juan Benn Jr./The Hilltop)

The new year commenced with grim news for the journalism industry. In January alone, the nation’s top newsrooms severed ties with many of their writers and journalists. Amongst these newsrooms were the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Business Insider, Forbes and Sports Illustrated. 

Many of the writers and journalists who were laid off took to social media to share the news and express gratitude for their time at the companies.

The company eliminated 74 newsroom positions in 2023. This round of layoffs was done without notice and surprised staff members.

Amy Wong, a former audience engagement editor for the Los Angeles Times, said that on Jan. 23, she received an email stating that layoffs would affect her job. 

 “This caused a cascade of rumors internally and externally about the state of the company and possible layoffs,” Wong said.

The untimely news of this year’s layoffs came after the Executive Editor of the Los Angeles Times, Kevin Merida, abruptly stepped down from his role at the beginning of January. It was estimated that the Los Angeles Times laid off 20 percent of its newsroom in January. 

Wong described being laid off as “jarring,” saying she was glad she was “somewhat prepared.” She said that many of her coworkers who were also laid off questioned how to move on in their journalistic endeavors.

Laura Browne, a coach, trainer and author who helps women succeed at work, wrote a book, “Help! My Company Swiped Left,” to give practical advice to laid-off individuals. After being laid off twice, she understands the hardships journalists face as they navigate their termination and continue their job searches. 

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“Do not take being laid off personally,” she said. “Prepare for the fact that this is not your family. ” 

Browne emphasized the importance of networking and keeping an up-to-date resume. She shared her insights based on her experience working in corporate human resources. 

“Companies see it as a numbers game. During a job search, you need to make sure you’re showing the skills needed for that job and the value you will bring to the company,” she said. 

Many people of color and minorities were disadvantaged by the company’s cuts, including former Washington Bureau Chief Kimbriell Kelly and former Asian American Communities Reporter Jeong Park, who were also released from their roles in the Los Angeles Times. 

Wong also said that almost all of the staff of a new section titled “De Los,” which focused on Los Angeles’ Latino and Hispanic communities, were laid off. 

The L.A. Times Guild has requested and negotiated diversified hiring in recent years so that a diverse pool of candidates is part of their newsroom. Minorities, in particular, were most affected by these layoffs because being new to the company meant they had less seniority and were, therefore, more likely to be laid off. 

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“The layoffs, not just at the L.A. Times, but everywhere else, have made me feel like it’s really hard to protect yourself as a POC journalist,” Wong said.

These layoffs are ongoing; on Feb. 22, VICE Media’s CEO, Bruce Dixon, announced that the company will be laying off several hundred jobs amidst restructuring changes. According to Fast Company, news reports show that the media sector could lose an estimated 10,000 jobs this year.

Dr. Stacey Patton, an assistant professor of Digital Journalism at Howard and an accomplished journalist, award-winning author and youth advocate, shared her thoughts on the layoffs. She said there has been a perennial conversation about the future of journalism, with the main question being, “Is there a promising future for journalism?”

Patton attributed the change to social media, technology and the inability of news and media companies to adopt a viable business model that accounts for the transformation of media consumption. 

“The internet has indelibly reshaped the news industry,” Patton said. “I think that our students, especially HBCU students because there’s such a lack of representation of our people in these corporate newsrooms, need to adapt to this technology.” 

Howard’s journalism program is ranked as the best among HBCUs and ranked number one in the United States by the National Association of Black Journalists. The Cathy Hughes School of Communications has produced notable journalists, newsroom leaders and digital innovators. Patton believes the answer involves introspection.

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“Our institutions need to look inward to say, ‘How do we create our own? How do we sustain our own stories?’ If we don’t, we are going to be completely erased, and we won’t have any kind of representation,” she said.

Copy edited by Jalyn Lovelady

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