The anticipated “bad winter” for media companies and their workers has arrived early. This week a number of major outlets announced layoffs, print cuts, hiring freezes, and other measures to address declining advertising revenue and annual losses. CNN, under pressure from parent company Warner Bros. Discovery—which posted a net loss of $2.3 billion in the most recent quarter—began “the deepest cuts to the network in nearly a decade” on Wednesday and into Thursday, according to media reporter Oliver Darcy, who reported that the expected cuts will “result in some on-air contributors and hundreds of staffers losing their jobs.” CNN boss Chris Licht said in an all-staff memo that those being notified Wednesday were largely paid contributors and “impacted employees” would hear Thursday, either in person or over Zoom. Among the big names impacted was political analyst Chris Cillizza, per Deadline, an editor-at-large who wrote The Point newsletter, as well as prominent on-air contributors Susan Glasser of the New Yorker and Jonathan Martin of Politico, per Puck.
“It is incredibly hard to say goodbye to any one member of the CNN team, much less many,” Licht wrote. “Let’s take care of each other this week.” In October, Licht announced that the network would stop buying documentary films and original TV series as part of its cost-cutting efforts, and in September laid off some staffers from its audio team as part of a refocusing of the division.
CNN wasn’t alone in cutting staff. Gannett also began its latest round of layoffs and furloughs Thursday—the third cost-cutting move at Gannett in the last six months, Poynter notes. Gannett’s news division is staring down a 6% cut this week, which would amount to roughly 200 lost jobs. That comes on top of mandatory unpaid leave, and benefit cuts that the company imposed in October. On Wednesday, Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee also informed staff that the Post would “end the print Sunday Magazine in its current form,” noting that “we will be shifting some of the most popular content, and adding more, in a revitalized Style section that will launch in the coming months.” The magazine’s 10 staff members learned their positions were eliminated in a meeting, according to Sarah Ellison, who reported that “Buzbee did not offer laid-off staff other roles inside the paper.” The current iteration of the Post’s weekly magazine—which Buzbee affirmed her support for in a town hall this year—began in 1986, winning a National Magazine Award and two Pulitzers. “Five of the 40 Washington Post stories that drew the most online readers over the past year were produced by the magazine,” Ellison noted.
Other outlets appear to be staving off forced layoffs with other cost cutting measures. In November, Insider reported that the The Associated Press is offering early retirement to some 200 older staffers, an opportunity to take their pensions in one lump sum that an AP representative framed as “an opportunity for some employees to receive a new form of their benefit and for the AP to reinvest any savings into people, technology and infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, at NPR, chief executive John Lansing announced this week that the network would need to cut at least $10 million in spending amid a steep decline in revenue from sponsors and would impose “close to a total hiring freeze,” among other things, to help reduce expenses. “As we did during the pandemic, we are prioritizing our staff and not anticipating layoffs at this time,” Lansing wrote in a memo to staff. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik reported that there are currently 137 job vacancies at the network, roughly 11% of its workforce. Lansing said NPR’s decision stemmed from “a slowdown in the advertising market, just like with every other media company.”
The flood of bad media news comes on the heels of other plans for deep cuts. “Digital upstarts are particularly vulnerable to ad slowdowns, because contracts for digital ads are typically much easier to pull at the last minute than contracts for television ads,” Axios’s Sara Fischer reported last week in a round-up of anticipated media layoffs. Morning Brew cited “a lot of fear and uncertainty” in the economy among advertisers in a memo announcing that 14% of staff would be laid off, Vice Media plans to reduce costs by “up to 15%,” and Protocol, the newish tech news site from Politico, will shutter altogether at the end of the year.