In yet another blow to journalists across the US, the Washington Post revealed on Tuesday that it would be offering voluntary buyouts to their staffers this week to cut their headcount by 240 people.
The interim chief executive, Patty Stonesifer, said in an email to the roughly 2,500 people who work at the company that the brand’s “subscription, traffic, and advertising projections” in recent years had been “overly optimistic”, according to the Washington Post.
“Our prior projections for traffic, subscriptions and advertising growth for the past two years – and into 2024 – have been overly optimistic,” Stonesifer wrote, adding: “The urgent need to invest in our top growth priorities brought us to the difficult conclusion that we need to adjust our cost structure now.”
A newsroom-wide meeting to discuss the buyouts and whom they will affect is slated for 10am on Wednesday. It is unclear how many of the more than 1,000 people who are part of the newsroom will be affected.
News of the buyouts comes less than two months after the company quietly laid off seven staffers from Arc XP, a tech division devoted to cloud-based publishing software.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Post told reporter Laura Wagner that move was part of “organizational changes” intended to support the unit’s future growth “by focusing on the areas most critical to our customers and the market”.
Eight months before this, the company conducted layoffs that resulted in 20 people losing their jobs and the announcement that the company would not be filling 30 open roles.
“While such changes are not easy, evolution is necessary for us to stay competitive, and the economic climate has guided our decision to act now,” Sally Buzbee, the executive editor of the Post, said in January. “We believe these steps will ultimately help us to fulfill our mission to scrutinize power and empower readers.”
Those layoffs affected various desks at the Post, eradicating the newspaper’s gaming vertical, Launcher, and its section for children, aptly titled KidsPost.
The New York Times also reported back in July that the Post was on track to “lose about $100m in 2023, according to two people with knowledge of the company’s finances”.
While the Post has certainly seen a lot of contraction, they join many other media companies that have been hit financially hard in recent years. Earlier this year, NPR and Vox Media cut their staffs by 10% and nearly 7% respectively. Gannett, CNN, the Los Angeles Times and BuzzFeed also experienced widespread cuts while Gawker and BuzzFeed News shuttered entirely.
Poynter, a non-profit media institute and newsroom, even posited in July: “For aspiring and early career journalists, is 2023 a breaking point?”
Elsewhere in her email this week, Stonesifer, who took on the role of interim chief executive this summer after publisher Fred Ryan departed in August, said she had worked with the senior leadership team to offer the buyouts “in the hopes of averting more difficult decisions such as layoffs”.
Spokesperson Kathy Baird told the Post that the buyouts should put the company “in a strong place for 2024 and beyond” and added: “This decision is still difficult knowing some of our valued colleagues may choose to leave at the end of the year.”
The Post did not provide the Guardian with further comment on the matter.
The Washington Post Union did not immediately respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.