Newsroom layoffs surged almost 170 percent over the past year as the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the media industry.
There have been 11,027 job cuts revealed this year, compared to 4,087 in the first half of 2019, according to a new analysis of 150 various sized firms from global outplacement and executive and business coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. This was the highest mid-year rate since it started tracking this data in 2003.
It was also 116 percent higher than the 5,104 newsroom cuts announced through June 2018. That year’s full-year total of 11,878 was the worst year for newsrooms since 2008, when 14,265 newsroom cuts were made.
In addition to layoffs, many newsrooms are forcing journalists to take paid time off or, more often, furloughing them without pay for a period of time.
In a recent Challenger survey, 23 percent of respondents said they furloughed workers due to COVID-19, but have recalled some or all of them. Another 30 percent of companies said they cut pay and 56 percent of those companies were able to avoid layoffs. Of those that implemented pay cuts, 44 percent said it was across the board, while just over a third cut pay for executive- or senior-level employees only.
More than 55 percent said pay cuts will last until business conditions allow for reinstating full pay, while a quarter said until the end of the year. Just under one-fifth stated full pay will be reinstated at different times for different workers.
The industry has been hit hard by plunging advertising revenues as companies slash marketing budgets as they tread water amid the pandemic. At the same time, many live events — another big revenue stream for media companies — have been postponed.
This has hit local newsrooms particularly hard, with a number having to shutter. According to Poynter, 50 local newsrooms have shut due to COVID-19.
Larger newsrooms have also been heavily impacted, with cuts at BuzzFeed, New York Magazine owner Vox Media, Vice Media and the Los Angeles Times, to name just a few. The New York Times also recently cut 68 jobs, but kept its newsroom intact.
And there’s likely to be more cuts to come soon, with CNBC reporting that Vox, which also owns The Verge, SBNation and Eater, is preparing to reveal more layoffs. In April, it furloughed around 100 staffers and implemented a tiered pay cut. At the time, chief executive officer Jim Bankoff said, “I’ll state the obvious that the advertising market is experiencing a downturn unlike ever before.”