The start of 2019 has been brutal to the media industry, with as many as 2,100 writers, editors, and other workers losing their jobs in the past two weeks.
On February 1, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Vice Media would be laying off 10 percent of its staff, or approximately 250 workers, as part of a reorganization effort; just hours later, the Miami New Times reported that McClatchy, which operates newspapers across the country, had offered voluntary buyouts to 450 workers. These reports come just one week after Verizon (which owns HuffPost, Yahoo, and AOL) laid off 7 percent of its staff, including Pulitzer Prize-finalist Jason Cherkis; BuzzFeed cut 15 percent of its workforce, decimating entire verticals; and the Gannett Company, which owns more than 1,000 daily and weekly newspapers across the country, eliminated approximately 400 jobs.
In total, at many as 2,100 employees — if not more — have lost their jobs, or will in the coming weeks. Vice is currently in the process of laying off 250 employees, most of whom will walk away with paid-out paid time off and severance, thanks to their union contract with the Writers Guild of America East. HuffPost, which is also organized with WGAE, cut approximately 20 employees. And at BuzzFeed, more than 200 people were laid off over a number of workdays.
While the companies’ reasonings behind mass layoffs aren’t identical, there is a common thread: The cuts have less to do with the talent of the workers, and more to do with financial imperatives and the whims of investors. THR reports that Nancy Dubuc, CEO at Vice, seeks to decrease spending and increase profitability. HuffPost spokesperson told CNN that the site is “investing its talents and resources to areas that have high audience engagement, differentiation and are poised for growth at a time when our mission means more than ever.” And according to BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti, who reportedly suggested that employees bring dogs to work on Monday as a means of raising morale, BuzzFeed is “restructuring” to “focus in on the content that is working, and achieve the right cost structure to support our multirevenue model.” (There is also speculation that BuzzFeed is preparing for a sale or merger.)
But employees are skeptical of these explanations, and many are laying the blame on Facebook and Google, which monopolize digital ad growth, as well as poor decisions on the management level.
“This isn’t happening because of market inefficiencies or consumer preferences or social value,” HuffPost senior reporter Zach Carter tweeted. “It’s happening because two very large companies have taken the advertising revenue that journalism outlets rely on and replaced it with nothing.”
An earlier version of this article said the national desk had been responsible for a recent report on Trump. This detail has been removed, as it was the investigations desk that reported the story.