Commentary

Steep Decline In Newsroom Job Cuts Mirrors Broader Trend

After last year's record-setting cuts in newsroom jobs during the pandemic, the pace of layoffs has slowed as the business environment stabilizes and the economy recovers.

The news industry announced 883 job cuts through the end of last month, a 68% plunge from a year earlier, when lockdowns began, according to data compiled by headhunting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The decline mirrors a broader drop in announced job cuts among all industries.

The newsroom job losses, which include those in digital, print and broadcast outlets, got much worse as the year progressed. By the end of 2020, newsrooms cut a record 16,160 jobs -- 13% more than the prior high of 14,265 in 2008. That year, the collapsing subprime mortgage bubble triggered massive losses for banks and led to the worst economic decline since the Great Depression.
In looking at the Challenger numbers, it's important to remember they reflect announcements about hiring and firing plans. There's plenty of hiring and firing activity that doesn't get reported. Other measures of the labor market -- such as unemployment, labor participation and job openings -- help to complete the picture of trends.
Challenger's data on job cuts likely will show a much bigger improvement for the news industry throughout the remainder of the year -- it can't get much worse than 2020 unless World War III breaks out. Looking back at last year, publishers really started to feel the sting of the pullback in media spending in the second quarter.
Condé Nast, Meredith, Gannett, Tribune Publishing, The New York Times, Atlantic Media, New York Post, Bustle Digital Group, Future Media Group, Vox Media, BuzzFeed Media and Vice Media either slashed jobs, furloughed workers or cut salaries to weather the pandemic.
As the year progressed, several publishers said they had plans to add staff. The most notable example was The Washington Post, which in December said it would add 150 people to boost its newsroom headcount to a record high of more than 1,000.
Hearst stood out as anomaly for mostly avoiding layoffs during the pandemic, though this week it began offering buyouts to sales and marketing employees, the New York Post reported. The offer may be extended to more employees, including those in its magazine group, though it wouldn't affect editorial staffers.

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