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23 journalists facing redundancy at Buzzfeed UK as NUJ says cuts are ‘chilling’ for news industry

By Freddy Mayhew

The National Union of Journalists has said cuts at Buzzfeed are “chilling for the whole media industry” as it has emerged that a total of 45 of the news website’s 140 UK staff now face redundancy.

Those at risk include 23 out of 76 newsroom staff, according to Buzzfeed management.

The number of total roles affected has risen from the 20 widely reported last week, although Buzzfeed told Press Gazette it had always said its proposals included more than 20 UK redundancies.

Buzzfeed chief executive Jonah Peretti told staff last week: “In the UK we are realigning the organisation to focus on content for global audiences and our core UK news beats – investigations, politics, media and social justice – and intend to make reductions across buzz, commercial, news and admin as a result.”

Buzzfeed media reporter Mark Di Stefano tweeted yesterday: “Update: Staff representatives have just briefed BuzzFeed UK staff on management proposal for redundancies. Management proposes cutting 45 roles (business and editorial) from 140 staff.”

Up to 100 staff are affected in Buzzfeed’s US operations, mainly falling on the commercial side of the company, the Wall Street Journal has reported. Buzzfeed has approximately 1,700 employees worldwide.

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: “The whole union will have been shocked by the scale of what is being put forward and will be rallying behind our members at risk of redundancy.

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“At a time when other organisations are investing in digital for the long term, cutting back staff with these skills seems perverse.

She added: “As the union is currently battling with redundancies across local newspaper groups such as Newsquest, it is deeply worrying to see such a trail-blazing digital enterprise to be in such trouble.

“It has sent a chill throughout the whole industry.

“That is why the union has called for an independent inquiry in the media in the UK. With Google and Facebook hoovering up virtually all digital advertising, there are huge questions to be answered for the future of journalism.”

Buzzfeed UK reported a pre-tax loss of £3.3m last year despite more than doubling its turnover to £20.5m on the previous year, full financial figures published for the first time by the company in October revealed.

According to media analyst Comscore, traffic to Buzzfeed UK has fallen from 13m unique views at the start of 2015 to 10.3m in October this year, the NUJ said.

The company is carrying out a collective consultation on its plans with the NUJ saying it is supporting affected staff.

Press Gazette understands that despite having taken the first steps towards forming an NUJ chapel, UK staff are still in the process of gaining union recognition from Buzzfeed.

Picture: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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