On Wednesday, the dapper and hyper-well-connected Washington Post C.E.O. Fred Ryan stood up before the company’s thousand-plus staff and announced that the organization would be conducting layoffs in the first quarter of next year, resulting in a less-than-10 percent reduction of the workforce. Since Trump left office, and Marty Baron retired from his role as executive editor, the Post has been churning subscribers and losing ad revenue. During the town hall, Ryan told staff that ad revenue was at “recession levels.”
Such announcements have become familiar in the media industry these days as companies correct from an era of overhiring amid low interest rates and an overstimulated economy, and recession-anxious executives try to manage the P&L. If Netflix’s stock price can get cut in half, and Warner Bros. Discovery can remain punished by public market investors in search of higher EBITDA and synergies, then what is a mid-Atlantic media company, even one owned by the world’s fifth-richest man, supposed to expect?
Nevertheless, Ryan’s disclosure left staff stunned and visibly pissed. A video from the staff-wide town hall—taken and tweeted by one of the Post’s own correspondents—shows employees shouting questions at Ryan that he refused to answer as he walked out of the room. “We are not going to turn the town hall into a grievance session,” he responded, awkwardly. In a statement, the Washington Post Guild called Ryan’s behavior “unacceptable from any leader, but especially the leader of a news organization whose core values include transparency and accountability.”