Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Incredibly, Deep New Cutbacks At L.A. Times

Kevin Roderick LA Observed

This is a breaking situation this afternoon. Editors met over the weekend to get the word and to refine their lists. Newsroom staffers are being told today individually and in department meetings that as many as 75 editorial positions are being cut through voluntary departures and layoffs.

Some staffers were approached last week about volunteering, "enticed" with the threat that this will be the absolute final time that editorial employees will receive two weeks severance pay for each year of service when they leave.

When new publisher Eddy Hartenstein took over in August, right after the last round of deep cuts, he was asked repeatedly about the prospect of new layoffs, and according to a first-hand report I passed along then:

The question of more layoffs was posed in half a dozen different ways and he said he hadn't been given a target number for the staff, that Sam Zell told him to run the place, etc., etc. He did say (as did Mark Willes and Sam Zell) that we can't cut our way to prosperity.

I've emailed Hartenstein and Times spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan some questions about what has changed since August and the extent of this round of cutbacks. My sources say the newsroom staffing level is headed to about 650, but I don't know if that includes the decimation of the Washington bureau expected by many there after the November election.

Associate Editor for features Leo Wolinsky held a meeting with his staff shortly amid strong rumors that he is leaving. Wolinsky confirmed to his people that he's out, citing staff reorganization. Wolinsky, you'll remember, moved over into the features job during the March buyout wave after years as the page one editor under a few different titles.

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