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LA Times’ Union Stages Walkout to Protest ‘Substantial Layoffs’ – HotAir

Things seem to be falling apart at the Los Angeles Times. Today the staff held a walkout to protest layoffs which, though they haven’t been announced yet, are expected to reduce the size of the staff by about twenty percent.

The Times disclosed Thursday that substantial layoffs were coming due to a widening budget deficit. The one-day strike represents the newsroom’s first union-organized work stoppage in the paper’s 142-year history.

Management has not publicly disclosed the number of newsroom positions that will be eliminated, but knowledgeable people said the plan is to lay off at least 100 journalists, or about 20% of the newsroom — the largest staff cut since the paper was owned by Tribune Co…

The proposed layoffs will mark the third round of cuts since June, when more than 70 positions, or about 13% of the newsroom, were trimmed…

“As you navigate financial pressures in our industry, we urge you to avoid undoing the diversity that we’ve worked so hard to build,” the Guild Caucus leaders wrote. “Layoffs would be catastrophic, eliminating new and essential voices and diminishing the gains we’ve made under your family’s leadership.”

Under union rules the way this is supposed to work is that the last hired are the first to go. Management told the union that as many as 50 jobs could be saved if they were willing to drop the seniority rules, i.e. if management could clear out some of the more senior people making the most money instead of the lower paid staff. That angered the union members who instead of making this “impossible choice” elected to hold the one day walkout.

My favorite part of the union’s response is their plea for the owner not to spoil the “diversity” they’ve built. The paper is falling apart and that’s their concern. Meanwhile back in reality, Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire who bought the paper for $500 million in 2017, has been covering its losses, reportedly writing $1 million dollar checks every week in some cases. Losses this year alone will be $30 to $40 million. Soon-Shiong isn’t even trying to balance the budget with the latest round of cuts, he’s just trying to bring the losses to a more manageable level.

The walkout today follows another recent blow to the paper. Last week executive editor Kevin Merida quit after less than three years on the job.

“Today, with a heavy heart, I announce that I am leaving The Times,” Merida wrote in a note to the staff. “I made the decision in consultation with Patrick, after considerable soul-searching about my career at this stage and how I can best be of value to the profession I love.”

Soon-Shiong said that he and Merida “mutually agreed that his role as executive editor of the L.A. Times will conclude this week.” Soon-Shiong said that he and his family were immediately launching an internal and external search for Merida’s successor.

These official statements always make it sound like everything is fine and no one is really unhappy but The Hollywood Reporter says there was plenty of friction behind the scenes. One source of this friction was the billionaire owner’s adult daughter who is a far left progressive.

What went wrong? And why so quickly? Some sources point to friction with Soon-Shiong’s 30-year-old daughter, Nika Soon-Shiong, who in recent years has apparently appointed herself the paper’s unofficial ombudsman, publicly upbraiding journalists when their politics don’t fall in line with her own progressive thinking.

The most recent clash — and the one that might have been the last straw for Merida — involved the paper’s coverage of the war in the Middle East. According to insiders, a group of senior editors approached Merida to express outrage that more than three dozen Times reporters had signed a Nov. 9 statement severely critical of Israel’s invasion of Gaza but barely mentioning the Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel launched from the Hamas-controlled territory. Insiders say Merida initially was reluctant to insert himself into the matter but decided to restrict, for 90 days, signers of the petition from participating in future coverage of the conflict. That decision reportedly did not go over well with Patrick Soon-Shiong, and couldn’t have thrilled Nika, either; she has made her pro-Palestinian views clear on her Twitter feed, where she has pinned a picture of the Palestinian flag and posted instructions to journalists to refer to Israel as an “apartheid state,” and even followed (and frequently “liked”) Quds News Network, a news agency often accused of being affiliated with Hamas…

Just before Merida was brought on board, famed Time and Wall Street Journal editor Norman Pearlstine ran the paper, and he too took heat from Nika. During the BLM protests and riots in L.A., Nika was calling out staff writers on Twitter and clashing with Times leadership over the use of the term “looting” in headlines. Later, she slammed a Times news item on the rash of smash-and-grab robberies that had been afflicting the city’s high-end department stores by claiming that by reporting on the crimes, the Times was “doing the bidding” of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

She sounds like a real peach. Just imagine trying to run a paper with the boss’s daughter hectoring you constantly that the coverage isn’t woke enough. Even Merida’s one million dollar a year salary wasn’t enough to make that worthwhile.

Today’s walkout probably won’t make a difference. After six years, the owner is finally tired of covering the massive losses and the seniority rules mean a lot of the newer, more diverse staff will have to go to protect the jobs of the less diverse old timers.

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