The Washington Post will be forced to lay off staffers if it does not reach its target of 240 voluntary buyouts, interim CEO Patty Stonesifer told employees on Tuesday in an ominous memo.
“We want everyone to understand that we need 240 acceptances to help restore The Post’s financial health,” Stonesifer wrote in the memo, obtained and reviewed by The Daily Beast. “We have made the decision, if we fall short of this goal, to implement involuntary layoffs in those areas where we have already identified that positions do not need to be replaced, where work can be reassigned more efficiently or where we can otherwise achieve cost savings. These layoffs would offer significantly less generous benefits than the voluntary package and will be consistent with prior layoff packages at The Post.”
Stonesifer noted that 120 staffers across the company have accepted a buyout package, nearly two months after she announced the buyouts. In an email to staff on Tuesday, executive editor Sally Buzbee said 36 of those were newsroom staffers, “about 30 percent of our goal across the News department” for accepted buyout offers. The deadline for non-union employees is Dec. 11 while employees within the Post Guild have until Dec. 15.
The episode underscores the dire financial struggles the Post has found itself in over the last two years, a predicament incoming CEO Will Lewis will grapple with once he officially starts at the paper in January. Should layoffs take effect, it would be the Post’s fourth round of job cuts in just over a year.
Buyout offers have been offered in droves to the paper’s metro, audio, video, and copy desks—offers Stonesifer said in a staff meeting last month were necessary after the paper “overspent” on expenses.
Still, Executive Editor Sally Buzbee maintained in an all-hands last month that the paper would be “intensifying” its local coverage. That led a local reporter to point out that the paper would have fewer metro reporters post-buyouts than other national outlets.
The Post has remained mum on its plans should it not hit its 240 target for the buyouts, and it did not immediately clarify on Tuesday which employees any potential layoffs would affect. The Post also did not immediately respond to questions on how many newsroom employees were among the 120 who accepted a buyout.
“I know this is a challenging time,” Stonesifer wrote on Tuesday. “Thank you for all you are doing.”