Twin Tragedies: The travails of The Oregonian and the L.A. Times


The Oregonian just announced it is laying off 11 more reporters, continuing what seems like a never-ending story.

You may recognize some of the names: Samantha Bakall, Jen Beyrle, Molly Blue, Allan Brettman, Jessica Floum, Susan Green, Anna Marum, Lynne Palombo, Mike Richman, Lynne Terry, Jerry Ulmer.

“Today, the positions of 11 of our colleagues in the newsroom are being eliminated,” the paper’s editor, Mark Katches, wrote in a memo to staff. “You’re probably asking yourself, when will these cuts end?,” the paper’s editor, Mark Katches, wrote in a memo to staff. “I wish I could answer that. Although we have made progress growing our digital audience while also producing award-winning, and important journalism, the revenue picture continues to pose challenges for our company—as is the case across the media landscape.”

Founded in 1850 as a four page weekly, iThe Oregonian’s first issue was printed in a log shack on SW First and Morrison, For many years after, it continued to build on its long and storied history.

But today it’s a mere shadow of its former self, and fading rapidly.

Unfortunately, The Oregonian’s not the only struggling news organization on the West Coast.

The Los Angeles Times is mired in turmoil and the people on its news staff are stunned with their predicament.

When Times workers voted on Jan. 4, 2018 to unionize, they figured it would bring a better deal and a more secure future.

“With a union, we can begin to address stagnant wages, pay disparities and declining benefits,” the union pronounced.

Don’t count on it.

Things struggling old-line newspapers are not doing these days are guaranteeing employment, handing out big annual raises and lowering healthcare premiums.

Union leaders said their goals include keeping the working conditions they like and getting a better deal on things they don’t like.

Demand all you want, folks, but it ain’t gonna happen.

Once massive influencers like the Los Angeles Times are on the decline, not the upswing. How the mighty have fallen.

About 20 years ago, the L.A. Times had an editorial staff of about 1,000 people. It’s now about 400, with more layoffs and buyouts expected.

As Nieman Lab, a website reporting on digital media innovation, put it this past week, ‘It’s a cut-of-the-month club, a gift that just keeps on giving.”

About 20 years ago, the L.A. Times had 22 foreign bureaus and 17 bureaus in the United States. By 2012, it had ten foreign “bureaus,” eight of them consisting of just one person, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. Today, the Times website lists just five staffed foreign bureaus (Beijing; Beirut; Johannesburg; Mexico City; Mumbai), with four of them staffed by just one person, plus a bureau in Sacramento and a bureau in Washington, D.C.

In Jan. 2003, the Times announced it planed to launch later that year its fifth regional edition, which would focus on the Inland Empire’s fast-growing Riverside and San Bernardino counties. “It’s a huge market, and parts of it have very strong affinities to Los Angeles,” John Puerner, then the Times’ CEO, publisher, and president, said in a statement to Editor & Publisher. “I think it could represent an important source of future, consistent, regular circulation growth.”

So much for that.

The regional editions are dead and gone.

About 20 years ago, the paper launched a National Edition. To the dismay of its supporters, it too expired.

So don’t get your hopes up all you folks in the L.A. Times newsroom. The union’s not going to save you.









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