Journalist redundancies appear to be rising in the UK and US as adspend outlooks dim and recession warnings grow.
Of 1,391 editorial job losses tracked by Press Gazette in 2022 so far, half have occurred since the last days of September. More than a quarter have occurred in the past month.
However, over the same period, Press Gazette has tracked more than 500 positions that have been created at publishers including Reach, Semafor and ITV.
A UK National Union of Journalists organiser in October confirmed to Press Gazette that they are dealing with a rising number of redundancies – most of which would not be reported. This means the true number of editorial redundancies in the UK and US this year is likely to be higher than reported here.
David Ayrton, a senior organiser with the NUJ, told Press Gazette that in most cases, employers “refer to the current global situation in relation to the conflict around Ukraine” and to “the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and its ‘aftermath'” as rationales for the lay-offs. He described the reasons as “very general to the point of absurdity”.
Acknowledging rising costs for publishers, Ayrton said: “We’ve got to guard against abuse of the [global] situation to make sure, if there are redundancies, then there’s less or no more work of the type that’s resulting in the redundancies – rather than an intensification of the workload of colleagues who are already hard-pushed and stretched.”
Ayrton argued that where a company’s finances might be under strain, “meaningful consultation” should be sought between the business and its staff over the best way to resolve the problem.
Not all gloom and doom
Even with rising redundancies across the industry, there are some publishers who have continued to hire. Here are the ones we know about:
- ITV News hired 27 journalists at the start of the year
- The BBC doubled the size of its digital news team in the US and Canada in February, adding at least 21 new editorial roles
- In April Linkedin began hiring for 80 news roles worldwide
- TalkTV launched the same month with an unspecified number of new hires
- Press Gazette identified 11 new hires Bloomberg made as part of its major UK expansion in May
- Pink News told Press Gazette in August it was looking to hire another 15 to 20 people in 2022 and a further 100 in 2023
- Ben Smith and Justin B Smith’s news US start-up Semafor was expected to have 60 staff at launch in October
- Press Gazette understands Forbes has been looking to hire 40 new staff globally
- The News Movement formally launched in late 2022 with 17 journalists in the UK and seven in New York
- ITVX launched in December creating 19 new journalism jobs
- And Reach has announced plans to set up US editions of the Mirror, Express and Irish Star, creating 100 new roles.
But cuts appear to outweigh jobs being created
But, following nearly 800 announced role closures at media outlets in recent weeks, Press Gazette has below updated its round-up of this year’s reports of editorial cuts at publishers in the UK, US and Ireland.
The list reflects employers’ attempts to make redundancies, rather than completed lay offs: not all the cuts below have been completed, and in at least one case a threatened strike stopped them altogether.
This round-up is not exhaustive: if you know of cuts or boosts to editorial personnel this year that we’ve missed, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
December: Major cuts at Gannett, CNN and Buzzfeed
Having already made 400 cuts across editorial earlier in the year, Gannett came back with the scalpel in December to close a further 200 or so roles. Unlike the previous cuts, this round targeted the local news giant’s news division staff. Poynter reported the company was cutting 6% of its 3,440 editorial employees, including at its flagship newspaper USA Today.
The same day, CNN embarked on a “single-digit percentage” cut to its 4,400-strong workforce, meaning closures of up to 440 roles. The company did not say what proportion of the cuts would be felt by editorial staff, but several high-profile journalists came in for the axe, among them editor-at-large Chris Cillizza.
As well as these, in December Buzzfeed cut 12% of its staff, translating into approximately 180 roles. The cuts “primarily affect Complex Networks, BuzzFeed.com and overlapping roles in sales, technology and studio production divisions”, according to Adweek. Because no further information was available about whether the cuts affected editorial roles, Press Gazette has not included those redundancies in the charts above. Similarly, games publisher IGN cut people “across multiple departments” on 8 December according to Kotaku, but specifics about the number of redundancies were not available.
November: Editorial cuts at The Independent and Washington Post
The Independent put 30 journalists at risk of redundancy in November as part of cuts aimed at reducing headcount by a fifth: 52 roles in total were put up for the chop. The Washington Post meanwhile announced it would be closing its Sunday magazine and the ten staff roles associated with it. The next day the Post reported the paper would also be laying off Pulitzer-winning dance critic Sarah L Kaufman and former Post editor Pay Myers, who had been contracted to assist with the Post’s weekly humour contest. And Rolling Stone UK laid off its online editor and features editor only a year after launch.
October: Ladbible cuts 10% of staff, Vice makes layoffs, BBC England shrinks
The Guardian reported in October that Ladbible, which says on its website it employs approximately 350 staff globally, was to thin its headcount by 10%. The business reportedly blamed cuts on “the state of the economy, which it variously attributed to the war in Ukraine, the hangover from Covid lockdowns and growing price inflation caused by ‘political instability'”.
BBC England said it would be reducing staff levels by 2%, or 48 roles, as part of a redistribution of resources. Some 139 roles were to be cut in local radio and 48 more with the cancelling of We Are England, but 131 new local news jobs would reduce the overall decline.
September: BBC makes huge World Service cuts
In September the BBC cut 382 roles at the World Service, citing pressures inflicted by the licence fee freeze. The month also saw Bustle Digital Group lay off a total of 19 staffers, “with the majority of the cuts coming from Mic and impacting mostly the editorial team”, according to Adweek. As well as those cuts the business closed its tech title, Input.
Elsewhere, CNN finished laying off the last 20 staff at CNN+, Future cut five roles at tech titles and Fanbyte sacked 10 staff.
August: The National Wales closes and Gannett culls 400 positions
August saw DC Thomson announce redundancy for its head of podcasts Christopher Phin as part of a change to its audio strategy.
Newsquest meanwhile closed its national news site for Wales, The National, 18 months after it launched. Press Gazette understood one staffer was to move elsewhere within the company, another was to keep their job at The National’s Welsh-language sister site Corgi Cymru and a third was facing redundancy.
And US local news giant and Newsquest parent Gannett revealed it had fired 400 staff and cut a further 400 open positions. The business did not make clear what proportion of the affected employees were journalists. The move came after a tawdry financial quarter for the USA Today proprietor.
July: Insider closes politics desk, Reach opens redundancy round and BBC News and World News merger planned
Insider closed its politics desk in July, leaving the Parliamentary lobby. The company gave editor Cat Neilan and reporter Henry Dyer the choice of leaving or moving to the general news desk; Dyer left and Neilan stayed.
In the same month, the BBC announced plans to merge the BBC News and BBC World News channels. The proposal, which remains in a consultation stage, would see a 70-role cut to the UK BBC News operation, partially offset by the creation of 20 new jobs in Washington DC.
June: Four staff laid off at News Ireland and National World close 30 roles to open others
Four editorial staff at Rupert Murdoch’s News Ireland lost their jobs as the company mothballed the daily online edition of The Times Ireland, according to the Irish Independent. In the same week Mediahuis Ireland, which owns the Irish Independent, announced it would be cutting commercial staff.
Earlier in the month Hold the Front Page reported up to 65 advertising jobs were at risk following Newsquest’s acquisition of Archant (although these are not included in our total, which is editorial only).
National World, meanwhile, in June cut around 30 roles at regional newsrooms in order to replace them with jobs at its new “Metro World” websites in specific cities. Press Gazette reported at the time “that some of the staff being offered alternative digital roles would have to move to a new city”.
A strike initially planned in response to the cuts was eventually called off in August, with the NUJ saying “the members affected do not wish the union to pursue industrial action on their behalf”.
May: CNN+ canned
In April CNN abruptly announced it would shut down CNN+, the business’ short-lived subscription streaming service. The resulting redundancies, believed to be about 20 in this initial stage, came the next month.
According to TV Newser, the new CNN chief executive Chris Licht told staff in a memo: “All CNN+ employees will continue to be paid and receive benefits for the next 90 days to explore opportunities at CNN, CNN Digital and elsewhere in the Warner Bros. Discovery family.” Those being cut would receive a minimum of six months’ severance pay.
April: Herald features team ultimately saved, Netflix’s ‘Tudum’ nixed, Intercept slims down
The paper said it planned to offer alternative roles to those made redundant, but insiders told Press Gazette the alternatives would be chances to apply for “already existing job vacancies in other parts of the business.”
An indicative ballot among several Newsquest titles in Scotland showed “overwhelming support” for a strike, but it did not go ahead – Newsquest reversed its decision just over a week after the news broke.
Also in April Netflix made ten journalists redundant at its editorial venture, Tudum, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The redundancies, made not long after the site launched in December, followed news earlier in the month that Netflix had lost 200,000 subscribers.
And The Intercept cut seven editorial staff, which its union decried as unnecessary.
March: E-sports journalist redundancies begin
Marking the start of an unfortunate trend for competitive gaming coverage, in March e-sports news site Upcomer laid off “the bulk” of its editorial staff in a pivot to video, according to its editor. Hitmarker, a gaming news and jobs website, said it identified “at least 11 people that had been impacted by the decision.”
January: The Sun’s sports correspondents
One, cricket correspondent John Etheridge, said he was told the three reporters’ beats didn’t “generate enough online traffic for [The Sun’s] liking. Or, more particularly, the advertising department’s liking”.
A Sun spokesperson disputed that, saying: “Sport continues to receive big investment from The Sun. Like any business, we are constantly reassessing where to invest our resources and coverage to best serve our audiences, and restructure teams on that basis.”
The round-up above is not exhaustive: if you know of cuts or boosts to editorial personnel this year that we’ve missed, let us know at email@example.com.
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