On Tuesday, Patty Stonesifer, the interim chief executive of The Washington Post, announced that the company would be cutting 240 positions, or roughly 10 percent of the staff, through voluntary buyouts. Her memo landed like a gut punch to Post staff and the broader news media industry, which is girding itself for the annual cost-cutting season that arrives every fall, sure as pumpkin spice lattes and autumn leaves, especially amid the post-Trump, post-ZIRP era.
Indeed, itinerant ABC News president Kim Godwin, who cut staff just over six months ago, will almost certainly be forced to do so again as part of a broader effort by Disney to fundamentally transform its business, I’m told—perhaps a sign of an impending sale, but probably merely a reflection of acute financial distress. At Condé Nast, C.E.O. Roger Lynch’s newly announced restructuring resulted in the departure of entertainment president Agnes Chu, and portends further staff reductions down the line. (Lynch noted in an all-hands memo that a full editorial restructuring will be announced later in the year—a statement which is sure to unnerve everyone from now through Thanksgiving.) Alas, there’s really only one way to cut costs in this business, and it isn’t via the T&E.
The Post, of course, is a bit of an outlier in this landscape. It is not facing the terminal decline of the linear television and magazine businesses, and it isn’t pivoting to video after pivoting away from it, yada yada. Also, it is backed by a $160 billion man in Jeff Bezos, who remains committed to its success. “This is a really good business,” Stonesifer said in an all-staff meeting Wednesday morning. The issue, she said, was that “we overshot on our expenses.” Indeed, as has been previously reported, the Post Company is expected to lose $100 million this year.