After a long battle with finances, the Los Angeles Times newsroom has made significant cuts, primarily laying off around a quarter of their journalists on Jan. 23.
Those laid off were notified during a mass human resources webinar and not given a chance for any utterance according to the LA Times Guild. These cuts have specifically hit recently hired writers of color in the newsroom and writers for De Los, LA Times’ section for covering the Latine community in Los Angeles.
“The company has reneged on its promises to diversify its ranks since young journalists of color have been disproportionately affected,” the Guild said in a statement.\
While LA Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong has heralded the newspaper’s commitment to diversifying its workforce, the cuts have caused “the Black, AAPI, and Latino Caucuses … devastating losses,” according to the Guild, for the sake of finances despite having the option to offer voluntary buyouts instead.
The layoffs may be attributed to the changing form of information-receiving as popular platforms like TikTok continue to popularize and shift journalism’s form. Whether out of a lack of readership or a big billionaire corporate buyout in 2018, these cuts are a misstep in the advancement of diversification efforts.
The United States Census Bureau confirms that the Latine community makes up 49% of the population in Los Angeles County, yet Latine journalists have been hit hard this year, with the LA Times layoffs being the most recent offense. Univision’s layoff of around 200 journalists occurred a week before the layoffs at the LA Times. Together, these actions have impacted Latine journalism in the city through its dissemination of representation in the newsrooms covering the stories within the community. Though optimistically coverage of the Latine community will remain the same in quality and quantity, community editor of Latino Initiatives at the LA Times Jessica Perez notes the tragedy of it all in a recent tweet: “For many, working here was THE dream job; others, uprooted their lives. For all of us, it’s a privilege to tell stories that reflect our communities.”
Despite the backlash that Soon-Shiong has received in regards to the layoffs, he has moved forward in placing Terry Tang as the interim executive editor after the recent resignation of Kevin Merida. In doing so, Tang is the first female executive editor the LA Times has had since its creation in 1881. This milestone for female journalists has been a silver lining in the cloud of chaos that has been rampant in the LA Times newsroom recently and is, hopefully, indicative of progress even after the devastation that has taken place.
In recent years, there has been an increase in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives within the journalism industry, evident in the number of new hires and distribution of leadership positions. Unfortunately, we are now witnessing a reversal. As there is a lack of seniority in being a new hire, they are inevitably going to be the first to go when it comes to consolidation. As a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Chair of the Daily Nexus, I believe that diversifying the newsroom is key to creating tangible change in what is being chosen as important for coverage, and what communities are being covered. I believe this was partly a choice since there was an option for buyouts. Unless there are stronger initiatives put in place to prevent a future loss that “disproportionately” affects writers of color, I firmly believe that this remains a disservice to the commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
A version of this article appeared on p. 16 of the Feb 1st, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.