The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

More Layoffs at Los Angeles Times

Feb 12, 2024

The Los Angeles Times laid off 115 journalists in January. Together with the 70 layoffs in June, management has thus eliminated about 30% of the Times newsroom staff within seven months.

The reporters have not been silent in the face of these attacks. In 2019, for the first time in the paper’s 138-year history, they organized a union. And in January, they staged a one-day walkout, again a first in the paper’s history, in protest of the impending layoffs—as well as the chaos in the organization, where seven editors-in-chief have come and gone in the last 10 years.

The big reason behind the Times decline is that, since 2000, the paper’s various owners have treated it like a plaything they could make a quick profit out of.

In 2000, the Chandler family decided to get out of its 119-year ownership of the L.A. Times. The Chandlers walked off with 6.45 billion dollars and left the Times behind with a 1.8-billion-dollar debt.

After that, it was just downhill for what was one of the most prominent newspapers in the U.S. The Tribune Company, which bought the L.A. Times from the Chandlers, itself was sold twice. To the billionaires and private equity firms that bought the company, it did not matter that the L.A. Times and other Tribune newspapers served millions of readers. They sold various company assets, including the headquarters and one of the printing plants of the L.A. Times. The billionaires pocketed the money and saddled the Tribune Co. with more and more debt. Tribune workers even lost part of their pension in a 2007 sale of the company.

In the meantime, management kept reducing the number of reporters and pages of the L.A. Times. Between 1990 and 2010, the paper’s circulation shrank by half.

When Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the Times in 2018, commentators presented him as an enlightened local businessman who could rescue the paper. But Soon-Shiong was just another billionaire buying the L.A. Times, and no newcomer either—he had already been the second-largest shareholder in the Times’ parent company, with 25% of the shares.

So, the high hopes did not last. The Times eliminated even sports listings and box scores from its print edition last summer—apparently the last straw for thousands of readers who canceled their subscriptions.

What’s left of the Times is a shadow of the newspaper that once had 1,200 journalists and more than 25 foreign bureaus. Today, the number of L.A. Times journalists has shrunk to less than 500. Even the paper’s Washington bureau has practically vanished, down to only five reporters. And the second-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. is left with a newspaper that fewer and fewer people consider worth reading.