The future of our journalists

The Los Angeles Times (L.A. Times) announced the firing of 115 employees, or more than 20% of their newsroom, on Jan. 23, 2024.  The L.A. Times had also recently fired 74 members of their staff in June of 2023, roughly 13% of their newsroom at the time. 

The L.A. Times is not the only news outlet facing extreme layoffs. From January to November of 2023, approximately 2,681 news industry employees lost their jobs, more than the number of jobs lost in 2021 and 2022 combined, according to Challenger, Gray and Christmas. Mass layoffs are common in the news industry, and people blame them  on a lack of readership or viewers or a need to shift a newsroom “culture.” These kinds of mass layoffs also frequently and disproportionately affect journalists of color. 

“Our newspaper’s ownership made a promise to bring in talented journalists from diverse backgrounds so that our staff reflects the city we cover, in the most populous state in the country,” leaders of the L.A. Times guild’s caucuses said Tuesday in a statement. “These proposed cuts would severely damage what incremental progress has been made.” The caucus represent Black, Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern and South Asian journalists.

This loss of journalists of color within the news industry will only perpetuate the loss at which news outlets will lose readership and viewership. Different perspectives only make sources more credible, well-rounded and engaging to an audience while incorporating people of all backgrounds. 

What also remains important, especially in the context of global events, is addressing context and nuances, something that could be best contributed to or highly benefited by a journalist of color. When discussing sensitive issues, it is important that a journalist can connect and empathize with an audience through difficult situations. Journalism aims to tell stories that bring light to situations and issues that show the complexity of an issue rather than strive to attract a larger audience. Though outlets may be struggling with dwindling audiences, the solution is not to scrap journalists who provide these benefits to the network. In these times, there is no shortage of information made available online; however, we are also in the midst of a widespread campaign of misinformation and disinformation. The way we communicate news is also changing, becoming more flexible to accommodate new facts and standing on new information. This shift from old to new is not a death sentence to journalism as a whole but rather a call to news outlets to become one with the new times, especially when it comes to the incorporation of more diversity into all newsrooms. 

The game has changed, and so must we. The solution to gaining an audience does not come at the price of mass layoffs but rather more journalistic freedom. There is a lack of funding for journalism to thrive, and in turn, outlets rely on large companies and corporations to fund their work through advertisements and content. As we enter a new era of journalism, this practice must cease to exist as a means of restricting stories and journalists. 

The L.A. Times mass firings are simply the tip of the iceberg. Adaptation to new forms of media, new styles, new techniques and allowing for difficult subjects to be reported on needs to be accepted by those championing the old ways of journalism. Mass firings in general, especially ones targeting people of color, are not the solution to the plethora of problems. In a country where the duty of a journalist is protected by the First Amendment, we must find a way to do better.