News media has long been a volatile industry since the dawn of the digital age. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing a worldwide economic slow, the industry is facing an unprecedented minimization. The bleak financial reality of the ongoing ordeal has forced employers into layoffs, furloughs and outright closures.
More than 20.5 million U.S. jobs were lost in April and, as of last Friday, the unemployment rate has soared to 14.7 percent. In early May, 3.2 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance, pushing the total number of claims since the pandemic’s outset to upwards of 33 million. Last week was a particularly brutal stretch for media, with more than 335 jobs eliminated and 120-plus more furloughed. Companies such as Condé Nast, Quartz and VICE have been dismantling their newsrooms with layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts since April, leading to arguably the most significant forced exodus of media employment in recent memory.
The federal systems in place to aide unemployment have been overtaxed with the influx of new claims, leading to serious problems for everyday working media members trying to procure benefits.
“For me, it’s been quite frustrating since the beginning of May,” Yesudian Cruz told Observer. Cruz is a part-time employee for Montgomery Community Media in Rockville, Maryland, which has been closed since early March. “The department of unemployment owes me three weeks worth of benefits… I finally got through the phone line to a rep and he stated the problem is the new Beacon system. When they made the switch from the old system to the new one, there’s been a code issue that has blocked people from getting benefits.”
The situation has become so pressingly dire that The Newsguild, a union to protect media members, is pushing members and others to ask congress for stimulus aide. To understand the full impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on media, here are the major workforce reductions that have resulted thus far.
- Vice has reduced salary for top staff earning more than $100,000 per year and halted retirement benefit-matching. Additionally, some top executives have been furloughed and hit with a 20-to-25 percent pay decrease. CEO Nancy Dubuc has taken a 50 percent pay cut. More than 155 employees both domestic and abroad are reportedly set to be laid off.
- Vox Media has furloughed more than 100 employees for three months. One of its newsrooms, Curbed Atlanta, will cease publishing for the same duration after its editor was furloughed.
- BuzzFeed has reduced employee pay, shut down its morning news show AM to DM after Twitter revoked funding, and furloughed a handful of staffers due to depressed sales.
- The Hill is reportedly implementing pay cuts for all employees. This includes a 1 percent reduction for those earning less than $55,000 per year and reductions up to 10 percent for management and senior roles.
- Cheddar has permanently shut down its Los Angeles studio amid company-wide layoffs.
- Bustle Digital Group has laid off six percent of employees (roughly two dozen staffers) while those still with the company earning more then $70,000 per year will take a tiered pay cut.
- G/O Media has laid off 14 employees, or just under 5 percent of the company’s workforce.
- TheSkimm is laying off roughly 20 percent of its staff, or about 26 employees.
- Valence Media is cutting up to 30 percent of The Hollywood Reporter‘s newsroom and pausing its weekly magazine production. Layoffs are also reportedly ongoing for Billboard.
- Meredith, the publisher behind People Magazine and Entertainment Weekly, has cut pay for about 60 percent of staff until Sept. 4 due to slumping advertising revenue. Roughly 2,000 employees will receive a temporary 15 percent salary reduction while another 750 employees, including Meredith’s top-salaried executives, will take pay cuts ranging from 20 percent to 40 percent.
- Time Out has suspended print editions in a number of major cities.
- Conde Nast is laying off about 100 employees in the U.S. In addition, a similar number of employees will be temporarily furloughed while a smaller number would now operate on reduced work schedules. Pay cuts throughout the company are also ongoing.
- Fortune has laid off around 10 percent of staff, or 35 employees globally, while executives have taken a 30 percent pay cut.
- Maven Media Brands, which entered into a long-term agreement with Authentic Brands Group to license and operate the Sports Illustrated media business in June 19, has cut 6 percent of the outlet’s editorial staff in an effort to reduce costs.
- Gannett instituted furloughs and other cost reducing measures in response to a plummet in advertising revenue connected to the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes scheduling unpaid weeks off on a rotating basis for employees earning more than $38,000 per year. Executives have taken a 25 percent pay reduction and CEO Paul Bascobert has forgone his salary.
- California Times, parent company to the LA Times, has shuttered three community newspapers and laid off 14 staffers.
- The Los Angeles Times has furloughed 40 employees and introduced pay cuts for senior manages to mitigate losses tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
- The New York Post has reportedly furloughed up to 20 percent of the newsroom for varying lengths of time.
- New Orleans’ popular trifecta composed of The Times-Picayune, Nola.com, and The Advocate have temporarily furloughed roughly 10 percent of its staff, or about 40 employees. All salaried employees and full-time hourly staff have also been reduced to working four days a week, resulting in a twenty percent pay cut.
- Tribune Publishing, which oversees the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, The Baltimore Sun, and The Virginian-Pilot, has rolled out permanent pay reductions and furloughs. Those earning $67,000 annually or more will see salaries cut from 2 to 10 percent on a sliding scale. Executives will also be taking pay cuts. Non-union employees earning between $40,000 and $67,000 per year were required to take three weeks of furloughs over the next three months.
- The San Francisco Examiner and SF Weekly have reduced hours and pay for staff.
- The Dallas Morning News have instituted pay cuts. These include a 3 percent base salary reduction for those earning $45,00 or less and an 8 percent base salary reduction for those earning $45,001 or more.