Layoffs Hit HuffPost After $4.6 Billion Verizon Media Write-Down

The cuts are part of sweeping layoffs at Verizon Media, which includes Yahoo and AOL.

HuffPost laid off about 20 employees around the United States on Thursday, one day after its parent company, Verizon Media, announced it would cut 7 percent of its workforce.

About 750 Verizon Media employees were expected to lose their jobs. That announcement came more than a month after Verizon took a $4.6 billion write-down on HuffPost’s parent company, Oath (now called Verizon Media), which includes AOL, Yahoo and HuffPost.

HuffPost unionized with the Writers Guild of America, East in 2017. A spokesman for the union said at least 15 members had lost their jobs. Two full teams ― the opinion and health sections ― were eliminated.

Pulitzer Prize finalist Jason Cherkis was among the reporters let go.

“It’s a tough day for HuffPost, and we’re losing some talented and beloved colleagues,” HuffPost Editor-in-Chief Lydia Polgreen said Thursday. “We are deeply committed to quality journalism that reflects what matters most to our diverse audiences across the globe. HuffPost is aligning its talents and investments to areas that have high audience engagement, differentiation and are poised for growth at a time when our mission means more than ever.”

HuffPost lost about 9.5 percent of its staff and Yahoo News lost about 10 percent, Polgreen said later Thursday in an all-hands meeting with HuffPost staff, according to several sources present.

The company has cut other costs, Polgreen said in that meeting, including shuttering its Germany edition. HuffPost Deutschland will close operations on March 31.

HuffPost’s union contract included language ensuring editorial independence and enhancing newsroom diversity, and had specific provisions for severance in the event of layoffs.

“A number of good people lost their jobs as part of company-wide layoffs, despite Verizon taking in nearly $4 billion in government funded tax breaks last year and a promise that workers will ‘share in the company’s success,’” WGAE said in a statement. “This is one of the many reasons why staffs working in the media industry continue to join together to fight for workplace protections that include collectively bargained severance packages and fair layoff notifications.”

“These giant platforms, they broke our industry. This is an existential challenge for every single publisher.”

- HuffPost Editor-in-Chief Lydia Polgreen on platforms such as Google and Facebook

Every cut in the tight-knit HuffPost newsroom represented a huge loss for the industry, said Christopher Mathias, a HuffPost reporter and union member.

“Today is a big blow to our newsroom and to the world of journalism,” Mathias said. “The reporters and editors who were laid off today don’t deserve this. It’s so sad and infuriating. They are some of the most passionate and dedicated people I know, and their work has made real impact on people’s lives. They’ll be sorely, sorely missed.”

“No one does this job to get rich,” he added. “Big tech CEOs do their jobs to get rich.”

At least one person was laid off from HuffPost Canada on Thursday, according to a source from the newsroom.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many people from each Verizon Media-owned brands would be affected.

In the wake of the write-down in December, some news outlets reported that Verizon planned to cut 10 percent of Oath staff, or more than 1,000 jobs. There had been rumors in the HuffPost newsroom of the layoffs since then.

A Verizon Media spokeswoman said Wednesday that the company’s goal “is to create the best experiences for our consumers and the best platforms for our customers.”

“Today marks a strategic step toward better execution of our plans for growth and innovation into the future,” she said.

This is the second swath of major layoffs for HuffPost’s parent company. Verizon cut about 2,100 people from the company in 2017. HuffPost reported at the time that 39 of those were HuffPost union members.

“These giant platforms, they broke our industry,” Polgreen said at the all-hands meeting, referring to platforms such as Facebook and Google. “This is an existential challenge for every single publisher.”

The news comes as huge cuts continue to hit organizations elsewhere in the digital media sphere.

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti announced Wednesday that the company would lay off 15 percent of its workforce, or about 250 people, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Gannett, which owns USA Today and several other newspapers, also cut jobs in newsrooms across the U.S. on Wednesday. laid off the majority of its employees in November. In October, Refinery 29 announced a cut of 40 employees, while Super Deluxe announced that it would shut down.

Alexander Kaufman, a HuffPost reporter and union representative, noted that layoffs at multiple news organizations means there are fewer people to investigate the most powerful people in the U.S.

“This place is like a family, and each of these losses stings in its own way,” Kaufman said. “The fact that layoffs here, at BuzzFeed and at Gannett will force so many journalists across the country to compete for jobs at the same time is a depressing reminder of how comfortable the powerful must feel in this moment.”

This article has been updated with news about the layoffs on Thursday.


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