Quarter of Top US Newspapers Saw Layoffs in 2018

Production workers stack newspapers onto a cart at the Janesville Gazette Printing & Distribution plant in Janesville, Wis., on April 11, 2018.  (Angela Major/The Janesville Gazette via AP)

(CN) – More than one-fourth of major newspapers in the U.S. experienced layoffs last year, according to an analysis from the Pew Research Center, and nearly a third of them saw multiple rounds of job cuts.

Pew researchers found that 27% of newspapers with Sunday circulations of 50,000 or more had at least one round of layoffs in 2018. That’s a slight decrease from the 32% of big papers that cut their staffs in 2017.

Furthermore, 31% of newspapers that experienced layoffs last year went through multiple rounds of separations, up from 17% the year before.

The analysis released Thursday used data published by the Alliance for Audited Media, a nonprofit that promotes media transparency, to find the large dailies whose combined print and digital Sunday subscriptions totaled at least 50,000 during the last quarter of 2018. Researchers then looked for news articles online reporting on layoffs at each of those outlets.

The Pew report further breaks down the layoffs by their market size. Researchers had predicted that mid-market newspapers, whose Sunday circulations range between 100,000 and 249,999 subscribers, were more at risk of layoffs than small and large newspapers.

Their prediction bore out: 36% of mid-market papers had layoffs in 2018, while only 18% of lower-circulation newspapers, with 50,000 to 99,999 Sunday subscribers, laid off staff last year. That was an 8% decline from the prior year for smaller newspapers, but a 4% increase for mid-market ones.

Among papers serving more than 250,000 Sunday readers, 29% had layoffs — a stark decline from 2017, when fully half of these mass-market news outlets had at least one round of separations.

The report notes that 9%, nearly one-tenth, of all these newspapers experienced layoffs in both 2017 and 2018. The majority of 2018’s layoffs have been widely distributed among news outlets, but many newsrooms are dwindling annually. Of all surveyed newspapers, 14% offered buyouts during the 2018 layoffs, just below 2017’s 18% buyout rate.

Researchers also looked at 37 digital-only outlets that served at least 10 million unique monthly visitors on average, finding that 14% of them experienced layoffs last year. That marks a slight improvement from 2017, when one-fifth of such sites had a round of separations. Almost all of them lost at least 10 staffers. Only 8% of the news sites offered buyouts.

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