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Layoffs to hit CBS News next week

CBS News employees are bracing for a significant round of layoffs that will hit the news division next week, according to multiple sources. The budget tightening is expected to affect every newscast, including “60 Minutes,” the network’s crown jewel, although that show will likely suffer minimal losses.

People familiar with discussions about the cuts inside the news division have heard that the total number who could lose their jobs could reach as high as 100, or 7% of the approximately 1,400-person staff. A news executive disputed that, saying the final figure would be considerably lower.

The cuts were prompted by a desire to mitigate news-gathering costs and make the news division more of a financial contributor to parent company CBS Corp., the news executive said.

"Every year we look at where the resources are spent, and if there’s a way to spend the resources more effectively, we’re going to do that," said the executive, who declined to be named discussing personnel matters. "This is part of the overall plan to make CBS News successful and vibrant and award-winning for a long, long time. It won’t have any effect on the ability of CBS News to continue with what we think is the best coverage in the news business right now."

But the news division’s remaining foreign bureaus have already felt the blow. According to sources, the Moscow bureau was effectively shuttered today after its three staffers were let go. And three part-time employees in Tel Aviv were laid off this week, leaving just one producer to staff that office. That means CBS' once-robust international reporting corps now has full bureaus with reporters in just London and Toyko, and small offices in half a dozen other foreign cities.

The layoffs are also expected to be keenly felt in CBS’ Washington bureau, where sources have heard that about a dozen out of the approximately 150-person staff could lose their jobs.

It appears unlikely that any on-air correspondents or anchors in the news division will be cut, but the layoffs will hit editorial employees, technicians and support staff. “It’s going to be painful all around,” said one person knowledgeable about the plans.

CBS is one of many media organizations that have been forced to retrench as the weak economy has driven down the demand for advertising. NBC and ABC have also cut their news divisions in recent years, and further belt-tightening measures at ABC are being considered, sources said.

While CBS Corp. President Leslie Moonves said last month that the advertising market is rebounding, prime-time entertainment shows and sports programming have been the first to see the uptick, which is affecting news programs more gradually. CBS News also faces the challenge of having its two daily broadcasts, “The Early Show” and “CBS Evening News With Katie Couric," lag in third place in the ratings.

CBS News is already a substantially leaner operation than its competitors, a result of deep cuts suffered in the late 1980s and early 1990s under owner Laurence Tisch. The company underwent more trims as recently as 2008, when about 1% of the news division staff was laid off.

Word of the newest round of layoffs began late last year when employees with contracts that were up for renewal were asked to sign new deals in which they would get no raises or severance packages if laid off. Bureau chiefs were asked to provide executives with a list of their staffs and what they did.

In recent days, gloom has settled over the newsroom as news of the cuts has spread. “Nobody is saying anything except for, ‘It’s bad,'” said a network source.

— Matea Gold

Comments () | Archives (5)

Maybe they can get rid of that women the on the evening news,she makes a lot of money and is not very good, ratings in the tank, the money she makes could save 100's of jobs at CBS and CBS could say we saved 100's of jobs with just letting one person go...Really

Just cut Katie; she has enough cash to last one hundred lifetimes; what a cold hearted biach!

I concur with Jake2. Why does this LA Times article not report how much they pay Katie Couric (ten million? twenty million?) and how many serious journalists this money could employ instead of one celebrity anchor. Why does this article parrot the propaganda, that "belt-tightening is due to the poor economy" instead of pointing out the truths of how poorly the American public is being served by our increasingly infotainment-oriented network "news" departments. (Last night, the big stop-the-presses happy-talk headline on the CBS Evening News was about football fans in New Orleans)

RussB, it's about $16 million. Not that these millionaires care if 11% of the earth's land mass (Russia) will be left uncovered after the Moscow bureau, established in 1941, is torn to pieces. Money is like manure, it needs to be spread around to do any good. Look at CBS stock, up over 100%. The company is swimming in cash. But they have to close down tiny Moscow completely. What's the point of a media corporation if the various divisions don't benefit from each other? About the only competitive advantage the big networks had over smaller news organizations was maintaining their own worldwide network of news people -- people who actually live in a foreign country, plugged in and fingers on the pulse of what's happening above and below the surface. "Spending the resources more effectively" means they're going to pay their celebrities more to put on glitzy, vulgar shows which are all sizzle and no steak (just compare CBS broadcasts with the BBC. You'll see the difference between a news "show" and the news). Especially telling is the corporate flack's comment "It won’t have any effect on the ability of CBS News to continue with what we think is the best coverage in the news business right now." The first part of the sentence is just not true -- without a Moscow bureau CBS will lose the ability to fly people in quickly when a story happens and get beaten by everyone else. The Russians are able to slow down or cancel any visa applications for anyone they don't like. Does CBS management think that Russia is becoming more media-friendly? Do they even read the news? The last part of the sentence is perfectly worded -- they will continue with "what they think" is the best coverage in the news business. By closing its foreign bureaus the message CBS News sends to its audience is -- "we think you're dumb, so we're going to spend all our money on HD equipment and expensive celebrity anchors' salaries and hope you believe you're watching something intelligent." CBS management should be congratulated for continuing the downward spiral of the news division, ensuring its third-place position if not its complete demise. Who do they think will be watching anymore?

All I can about CBS is that I in the past Liked Katie Couric, until she interviewed Sarah Palin. She was very unfair in that interview. I did not like that side of her, so I never watched her again. NBC lost me when I heard of Jeff Zucker and his relationship with Obama. I don't trust him. I even refuse to buy GE products. They are not made in the United States of America. We need the jobs to stay in America, we need the people to get back to having morals, stand up for what is right and put the Federal Government where they belong, working for us not us for them. I Watch Fox to get the truth to what is going on in our country. After feeling the way I do about CBS, NBC why try ABC. I have Fox News, they do tell the truth.

After reading more of the comments, "IS ANYONE WORTH $16 MILLION". I knew something was coming when I received a call one night from someone from CBS news inquiring on what evening news I watched. When they asked if I like Katie Couric, I told them I used to not any more, she showed her true colors and I will stick with Fox. I don't like being bored, so I made my choice long ago. Before I will watch Leno on NBC, I will watch reruns of Bill O'Reilly at 11:00 until I fall asleep or the Nanny on Nick @ Night.



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