Reporters report news. Now, up to 1,000 US reporters have become the news.
The reason: Top US media organizations BuzzFeed News, HuffPost (Verizon) and Gannett (USA Today) have announced a wave of redundancies — a few hours apart.
A dizzying number of media professionals, including at least one Pulitzer-Prize winner, received their end-of-service notices from Wednesday.
These outfits are esteemed for their journalism, but chronically low ad revenues led to the job cuts, according to owners.
On Wednesday, BuzzFeed announced plans to lay off 15 percent of its workforce, reportedly affecting up to 200 employees — mostly newsroom staff.
The same day, The Wall Street Journal reported that Verizon's media group — which includes AOL, Yahoo and HuffPost — will lay off 7 percent of its staff.
The layoffs include the entire HuffPost opinion and health sections.
Also on Wednesday, the newspaper giant Gannett started slashing jobs. For Gannett, the company behind USA Today and prominent local newspapers, like The Indianapolis Star and The Arizona Republic, the new redundancies form part of years of downsizing.
Many laid-off journalists took to Twitter to announce their latest status.
Chris McDaniel, who reported about executions in America for BuzzFeed, tweeted: “Hey guys, I'm one of the many reporters laid off from BuzzFeed News today. I'm proud of the work I've done here, alongside some of the best investigative reporters there are. If you're hiring, my DMs are open.”
DM is Twitter-speak for "direct messaging".
"Like so many talented and lovely journalists, I was laid off today," tweeted HuffPost deputy opinion editor Chloe Angyal.
Indianapolis Star's Tim Swarens, who reported extensively on sex trafficking and child exploitation, also took to Twitter to announce his job loss.
"I'm in shock. Not how I wanted 35 year journalism career to end," tweeted longtime Indianapolis Star columnist Tim Swarens.
Who killed journalism?
- Capitalism is at work against journalism
- Free online ads killed newspaper classifieds
- Google ads killed journalism
- Facebook killed journalism
- The 24-hour news killed journalism
- Technology killed journalism
- Leftist media is so gone
- It's not a single-shooter assassination
The 1,000 or so jobs wiped by US news organizations is a result of the assault of digital on traditional media.
Last year, Vox, Vanity Fair, Vice, GQ, Vogue, Teen Vogue, the New York Daily News, Good Media Group, Glamour, The Outline, Refinery29, and CNN announced layoffs.
With so many organisation facing financial dire straits, the future has never looked bleaker for media professionals.
There’s a sort of a counter-trend, too: Some prestigious organisations, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The New Yorker, have scored a “Trump bump” surge in readership during the Trump presidency.
But it’s not all bad news. Amidst the social media storm, flickers of support for those who fell by the waywise emerged.
BuzzFeed News copy editor Emerson Malone decided to launch a charity drive for his own colleagues. On Friday, he tweeted, "A lot of my BuzzFeed News colleagues — and friends — are losing their jobs today.” So he started a "plumfund" page to raise money, which brought in more than $8,460 (as of Monday) — out of a modest goal of $250 — from hundreds of donors.
New wave of competition
It's not only free outfits like BuzzFeed News and HuffPost facing financial straits. Theories abound to try to explain away the downward trend in news media jobs.
Due to low entry barriers to internet publishing, creating a new wave of competition, traditional media companies as well as digital media companies had seen their ad pie shrink.
Meanwhile, Google and Facebook, able to target ads through powerful algorithmic profiling of users, have gobbled up a lion's share of the ad revenues.
Facebook and Google will corner up to 75 per cent of the global ad revenues, the Financial Times reported on Sunday, citing a study of market research group e-Marketer. "Others", including digital media companies, will share a measly 15 per cent.
The layoffs, say analysts, are the owners' way making their balance sheets look more palatable for the next logical step: joining forces via mergers and acquisitions.
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