L.A. Times to lay off at least 115 people in the newsroom

The Los Angeles Times announced Tuesday that it was laying off at least 115 people — or more than 20% of the newsroom — marking one of the largest workforce reductions in the history of the 142-year-old institution.

The move comes amid projections for another year of heavy losses for the newspaper.

The cuts were necessary because the paper could no longer lose $30 million to $40 million a year without making progress toward building higher readership that would bring in advertising and subscriptions to sustain the organization, the paper’s owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, said Tuesday.

Drastic changes were needed, he said, including new leaders who would focus on strengthening the outlet’s journalism to become indispensable to more readers.

“Today’s decision is painful for all, but it is imperative that we act urgently and take steps to build a sustainable and thriving paper for the next generation. We are committed to doing so,” Soon-Shiong said.

Soon-Shiong expressed disappointment that the newsroom guild did not work with management to come up with a plan that he said would have saved jobs. Instead, the guild focused its energy on a one-day strike last Friday, which, he said during an interview, “did not help.”

A portrait of Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong in 2018.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Soon-Shiong expressed deep frustration with past leadership and attempts to build the Los Angeles Times Studios to take the paper’s journalism to more consumers through documentaries and podcasts.

The owner said he recognized several months ago that former Executive Editor Kevin Merida, who stepped down earlier this month, and several high-ranking editors that he put in place were not getting the job done.

Merida has said that he left the paper over disagreements with Soon-Shiong over his role as top editor and strategy, as well as the size of layoffs.

“It is indeed difficult to reflect upon the recent tumultuous years, during which our business faced significant challenges, including losses that surpassed $100 million in operational and capital expenses,” Soon-Shiong said. “Despite these difficulties, we made a deliberate decision to abstain from implementing layoffs within our newsroom during the COVID pandemic, maintaining the newsroom headcount throughout until the last several months despite the losses.

“Since the acquisition of the Los Angeles Times, we have invested almost a billion dollars, underscoring our dedication to preserving its legacy and securing its future,” he said.

In the interview, Soon-Shiong pushed back on the narrative that The Times was in turmoil.

“We are not in turmoil. We have a real plan,” he said.

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