As reported by the International Federation of Journalists: The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliates the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) and the Author’s Guild strongly condemned the decision by BuzzFeed and called for wider consultation on addressing the challenges the company is facing.
On 25 January, 43 of BuzzFeed’s 250 employees in the USA were made redundant, including the entire news desk. In London, 17 positions at BuzzFeed were put forward for redundancy, while on Tuesday January 29, staff in BuzzFeed’s Australia offices were told that as many as 25 of the 40 employees would be made redundant. BuzzFeed Spain and Mexico were closed as part of the global restructure.
The latest cuts at BuzzFeed highlight the crisis facing journalism around the world and the ongoing risks to public interest reporting if even those media players successfully engaging large and younger audiences feel they can no longer afford sizeable workforces or dedicated newsrooms.
The redundancies come after BuzzFeed cut 6 per cent or 100 employees in 2017. However, BuzzFeed is not the only online media platform to cut staff. In the US Verizon, which owns Yahoo and The Huffington Post, has also announced that it will cut 7 per cent of its staff. Vox, Media and Mic, which owns Vox and SB Nation cut 50 staff in 2018, and Vice has instituted a hiring freeze.
NUJ general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet said: “The sheer scale of these cuts is sad to see. It’s a swingeing blow to morale in the newsroom and a far cry from where staff were told things would be after major redundancies a year ago, which were billed as setting the company up for the future. That staff are going through this again so soon raises questions that need to be addressed across digital publishing, about future strategy and the importance of long term investment, rather than unrealistic expectations of short term returns. It is a real shame to see BuzzFeed choose to lose another large number of skilled and experienced digital journalists.”
MEAA said: “MEAA members have expressed anger and concern at the way these redundancies are being conducted and call on the company to ensure all entitlements are paid in full to their hard-working staff, who have demonstrated the utmost dedication to the BuzzFeed brand, and properly recognise those efforts with fair, reasonable and above-award redundancy payments, in line with what their colleagues overseas have received. MEAA notes journalists working for digital-only publications current miss out on key protections enjoyed by their print colleagues – but MEAA members are fighting to change that.”
The Author’s Guild said: “The recent cuts in digital media journalist jobs follows a long trend of newsroom layoffs, and it a crisis that affects us all. The quality of news suffers, as do journalists. Like the newspapers and print magazines before it, BuzzFeed will need to rehire reporters and editors as freelancers, forcing them to work for less pay and without health insurance and other benefits. In the U.S., newspaper jobs declined by 60% between 1990 and 2016. The Authors Guild is working to ensure that freelancers are paid a liveable wage, are given protections under the law and have access to affordable healthcare coverage and other benefits (which employers and not the government provide in the U.S.); otherwise, the most experienced journalists will have no choice but to transition to other careers. The Authors Guild is committed to elevating the issue of authors’ ability to maintain sustainable writing careers to the national stage, creating business models that will sustain journalism into the future.”
The IFJ general secretary, Anthony Bellanger said: “We stand in solidarity with journalists across the world who continue to work in this changing media landscape, using innovative ways to tell the stories. Finding a way to make journalism sustainable should be a clear focus for each media company, ensuring jobs and telling the stories that need to be told.”