Less than two years after billionaire surgeon Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the Los Angeles Times, the paper is offering voluntary buyouts to its loyal, unionized employees.
As CNN reports, the paper’s parent corporation, the California Times, made the pitch via email this week to staffers who have been with the company or its subsidiaries for at least two years.
Explaining the benefits of the “Voluntary Separation Plan” the memo states, “We know that to build a sustainable business and ensure our ability to provide vital journalism for decades to come, we need to move swiftly to make our product more digital, more nimble, and more attractive to loyal and new audiences. Buyouts will help us accelerate this process.”
Times spokesperson Hillary Manning tells Los Angeles, “More than $100 million has been invested in staff, technology, and infrastructure over the past 20 months. We believe that’s evident to anyone who’s read our papers, visited our websites, used our apps or, for that matter, visited our offices lately. The buyout offer is intended to give us a little more flexibility to create and hire new roles, and to give some staffers who are looking to make a change an opportunity to leave on their own terms.”
Manning adds that the buyout plan is “one step of many as we further the transformation of the company. We are committed to investing in areas that strengthen our ability to compete, grow revenue, and produce vital journalism in the public interest.”
The move to make the Times leaner shouldn’t come as a surprise. When Dr. Soon-Shiong took over in June 2018, he emailed staffers a note saying that the media faced “an existential crisis” and that in order to survive, the paper “must be run as a business to innovate and thrive in the digital age.”
The Times unionized in January 2018, and ratified its first contract last October. Times Guild president Anthony Pesche thanked Soon-Shiong for saving the paper in its darkest days, but calls the buyouts “an unfortunate reality,” saying, “We wanted them to be standardized and get the best package we could. That’s part of the reason why we bargained a contract, and I think we’ll watch for any further developments and continue to try to protect the future of the L.A. Times.”