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October 13, 2022

Nearly 1,000 news industry jobs cut in UK, US and Ireland since June

By Bron Maher

Journalist redundancies appear to be rising in the UK, US and Ireland as publishers brace for a recession.

Of 830 editorial job losses tracked by Press Gazette in 2022 so far, 739 (89%) have occurred since the end of June.

A National Union of Journalists organiser confirmed to Press Gazette that they are dealing with a rising number of redundancies among their members – 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 in excess of 1,000.

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.

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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 last month it was looking to hire another 15 to 20 people in 2022 and a further 100 in 2023
  • While it hasn’t yet launched, Reach is reportedly mulling hiring more than a hundred staff in a bid to tap the US
  • Ben Smith and Justin B Smith’s news US start-up Semafor is due to have 60 staff at launch this month
  • Press Gazette understands Forbes is currently looking to hire 40 new staff globally.

But cuts appear to outweigh jobs being created

But following reports Ladbible is due to cut 10% of its 350 staff, Press Gazette has rounded up below 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 bron.maher@pressgazette.co.uk.

January: The Sun's sports correspondents

The Sun made three sports correspondents who covered golf, rugby union and cricket redundant between November 2021 and January 2022.

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."

March: E-sports journalism cuts 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."

April: Herald features team ultimately saved, Netflix's 'Tudum' nixed, Intercept slims down

Newsquest had initially planned to make the six-person features team redundant at its Scottish national newspaper The Herald - a group with a combined 140 years working for the paper.

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 laid off ten journalists 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.

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.

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".

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.

And Reach opened a voluntary redundancy round in July. Press Gazette has approached the company to ask how many journalists left.

Across the Atlantic, July saw e-gaming site Inven Global reportedly lay off its entire editorial staff of seven and Game Stop-owned Game Informer cut three journalists.

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.

September: BBC World Service cuts 382 roles, Future shrinks tech vertical, Fanbyte and CNN shed staff

BBC World Service announced at the end of September it planned to cut ten radio services, move seven online-only and bus others out of the UK, costing around 382 jobs. Service director Liliane Landor said the cuts, intended to save £28.5m, were an attempt "to respond to financial challenges and move to a new structure and operating model".

Affected roles were in news content, news output and operations. The possibility some staff would be sent to countries that rank less well on press freedom indices than the UK prompted criticism.

Also in September digital and magazine publisher Future plc made "fewer than ten" redundancies at its US tech vertical, thinning staff at Android Central, Windows Central and iMore.

The company said at the time: “Like any modern media organisation we regularly look to ensure we are best placed to reach our audiences and clients’ needs... This week we made some small changes to our tech vertical organisation. We did not take this decision lightly and it is with regret that a small number of colleagues have been affected."

At another tech publication, Tencent cut almost the entire staff of gaming site Fanbyte. Ten staff appear to have lost their jobs. Tencent, which also owns Chinese social media behemoth WeChat and products like Roblox and Discord, had posted its first revenue decline the month before.

And CNN axed the last 20 staffers attached to CNN+, according to The Daily Beast.

October: Ladbible cuts 10% of staff, Vice makes layoffs

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'".

At another youth-focused online publication, Vice reporter Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai announced in October he had been laid off, alongside two other New York-based staffers.

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 bron.maher@pressgazette.co.uk.

Picture: AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images

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