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U.S. Media Giants Announce Staff Layoffs Amid Grim Economic Climate

Several large US media outlets have announced mass redundancies amid a worsening economic climate.
Several large US media outlets have announced significant staff layoffs amid a worsening economic climate. Credit: Katie / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

Several large media corporations in the US, including CNN, Vox, BuzzFeed, and The Washington Post, have announced that they will lay off significant numbers of staff.

Journalists across the country could be facing unemployment in what increasingly appears to be a foreboding financial environment for news and media firms.

The layoff announcements were made by major media firms this month not long after tech giants such as Google and Amazon made similar decisions to ax staff.

Media industry redundancies

Journalists working for several of the big news firms in the US will have cause for apprehension after impending redundancy announcements were made.

On Friday, Vox Media, the owner of the Vox and The Verge websites in addition to New York Magazine, announced that seven percent of its staff would be made redundant. Out of Vox’s total of 1,900 staff, about 130 will face job losses.

Vox released a memo in which CEO Jim Bankoff notified employees of “the difficult decision to eliminate roughly seven percent of our staff roles across departments due to the challenging economic environment impacting our business and industry.”

CNN has also been axing staff. In October 2022, the chairman and CEO of CNN, Chris Licht, hinted at future job losses due to “widespread concerns over the global economic outlook.”

A month later in November, CNN proceeded to terminate hundreds of positions, although the exact number of redundancies remains uncertain. High-profile employees, such as the political reporter Chris Cillizza and on-air host Robin Meade, lost their jobs.

In a memo sent to staff, Licht said that the layoffs felt like a “gut punch” but “are necessary and will make us stronger and better positioned to place big bets going forward without fear of failure.”

The redundancies in November were the second to take place at CNN after its one hundred million dollar streaming platform CNN+ was scrapped just three weeks after launch. About 350 positions went down with the failed streaming service.

BuzzFeed has also been dropping staff. The media company made twelve percent of its workforce redundant in December 2022. Approximately 180 BuzzFeed staff lost their jobs as a result.

An announcement in December by The Washington Post outlined plans to cut stuff in 2023. Owner Jeff Bezos of The Washington Post visited an editorial meeting at the newspaper company’s office earlier this week, leading to further speculation about job losses.

Causes of layoffs

Many of the big media firms that have recently let go of large numbers of staff have blamed a worsening economic climate for the redundancies.

Gannett, which is the largest newspaper company in the US, laid off two hundred staff members at the end of last year.

“While incredibly difficult, implementing these efficiencies and responding decisively to the ongoing macroeconomic volatility will continue to propel Gannett’s future,” said a spokesperson for Gannett after the company slashed six percent of its workforce.

Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti expressed a similar sentiment, saying, “In order for BuzzFeed to weather an economic downturn that I believe will extend well into 2023, we must adapt, invest in our strategy to serve our audience best and readjust our cost structure.”

Layoffs in the media industry have not been as dramatic as in the big tech sector. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, announced that it would lay off twelve thousand workers earlier this month.

Earlier in January, Amazon also announced that it would cut eighteen thousand jobs while Microsoft issued a statement saying that it would be cutting ten thousand positions.

Many economic analysts believe a recession in the US is looming. A consensus is shared by most experts that an economic contraction will take place in 2023. Many have blamed the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policies. Declines in employment are also expected.

“Usually recessions sneak up on us,” economist Mark Zandi told CNBC. “CEOs never talk about recessions. Now it seems CEOs are falling over themselves to say we’re falling into a recession…Every person on TV says recession. Every economist says recession. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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