The Washington Post began laying off staffers on Tuesday morning, according to a source familiar with the situation, early cuts that have had the newsroom on edge for weeks and heightened frustration with management. Impacted staff were notified via email, the source said. A spokesperson for the Post did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
executive editor Sally Buzbee confirmed the layoffs to staff in a memo on Tuesday afternoon, writing that they had made “the difficult decision to eliminate 20 current newsroom positions” and “identified 30 open positions we will not fill.” These positions included roles across multiple departments and the termination of Launch, WaPo’s online gaming vertical, and KidsPost, a section of the paper written for juniors, per a familiar source. In her memo, Buzbee said all impacted employees “are eligible to apply for posted positions” and that the company is “also offering a separation incentive program to these employees that includes severe and continued health insurance coverage.”
In a statement to vanity fair, Guild leadership said, “Since the town hall, we have received no clear explanation for why the layoffs are happening despite numerous attempts to get answers. As far as we can tell, these layoffs are not financially necessary or rooted in any coherent business plan from Fred Ryan, who said at the same town hall that he expects the company to be larger a year from now.” The Guild added that they will “continue to hold the company accountable and fight these seemingly arbitrary terminations in every way we can.”
Post staffers have been bracing for these cuts since early December, when publisher Fred Ryan dropped the news at the end of an hour-plus long town hall and then stunned the room by refusing to take questions. On his way out, as staffers pressed for more details about the “numbers of positions” that he said would be eliminated in the first quarter of 2023, Ryan said from the aisle that he didn’t want the town hall to turn “into a grievance session for the Guild,” a comment documented in a video by a staffer in the room. Employees were already unnerved given, a few weeks earlier, Buzbee had killed the Post‘s weekly magazine and with it, the positions of the magazine’s 10 staffers, as well as a Pulitzer Prize–winning dance critic.
“While the number of people affected is reportedly far smaller than what Publisher Fred Ryan initially alluded to in his layoff announcement at last month’s town hall, we believe any job eliminations right now are unacceptable,” Guild leadership told VF “The number should be zero.”
Anxiety continued to ratchet up last week when billionaire owner Jeff Bezos made an appearance, for the first time in over a year, at the paper’s K Street headquarters. Bezos, who bought the Post In 2013, sat in on the morning news meeting alongside Ryan and Buzbee, and also met with top editors and a political reporter. During his visit to him, the Amazon founder was stopped by a Post employee wearing a red Guild shirt, who asked “why the company was laying people off without offering buyouts first,” The New York Times reported, to which Bezos “responded that he was at the Post to listen, not answer questions, and underscored his commitment to the Post‘s journalism.”
as one Post staffer told me last week, “The Post wants to be in the business of putting out the press, not being the press.” Reports have accumulated about the Post in recent months about everything from its business struggles to questions about leadership, along with several high-profile departures. Bezos’s visit has only added to the media attention on the paper, with The New York Post speculating Monday about Bezos “may” sell the Post in order to buy a football team. The report, which noted that Bezos “told the paper’s senior staff in private meetings that he had no plans to sell the paper,” was dismissed by a spokesperson for the paper, who said The Washington Post is not for sale.
This article was updated with response from the Post Guild and details from Sally Buzbee’s memo to staff.