Thinking about taking a buyout, or leaving your media job to pursue your organic restaurant/piano teacher dreams? Read this depressing survey of 75 ex-Los Angeles Times journalists first. It's not pretty. Only 11 have landed full-time jobs!
The Journalism Shop, a website set up by ex-LAT staffers to offer their journalistic services, spoke informally to 75 former employees. Three quarters were asked to leave the paper and the rest left voluntarily. Here are some sobering highlights, complete with some even-more-sobering quotes from the afflicted:
- More than two thirds are receiving some kind of unemployment benefits.
I'm hanging in there, but don't know what I'll do when I don't have unemployment as a base," wrote one female ex-staffer. "I'm in my 50s and it isn't easy to find a job at my level and impossible to find one that pays what I used to make.
- Almost all — 84 per cent — said that leaving the LAT had a negative impact on their finances. Four out of five reported earning half or less of their previous wages and 13 per cent said they now had no income at all.
We're living on $50,000 less a year with two kids, one in college and (one) in high school," wrote a father in his 50s. "We're not at risk of losing our home but our ability to help our children get through college has been severely threatened.
- Only 11 of the 75 reported landing a full-time job. Nearly 40 per cent are freelance only and 28 per cent are not working at all. Of those who are working, 90 per cent reported that they were earning less than when at the LAT.
"As with many of us, after working at the Times for more than 20 years, I was at the high end of the pay scale," wrote a woman in her 50s. "It will be very difficult to re-establish myself in a similar position."
- When they had got the sad news off their shoulders, the journalists also vented at the way they were treated by the paper. Half felt they were treated unfairly. And many are pissed that the paper fired them then hired younger, much less experienced journalists, presumably for lower wages.
It was extremely dismaying to me to hear of a younger reporter being hired after some 70 layoffs occurred this past spring," wrote one female respondent. "The fact that she – and others – have been hired after so many were laid off leaves me unconvinced that the economics were such that they had no choice but to do such extensive layoffs.
- Some blame the Chandler family, who sold the paper to the Tribune company in 2000. The Tribune company was in turn sold to Sam Zell and then foundered under $8bn of debt. It's still in bankruptcy protection. Still, it's the little things we should be thankful for:
At some point, I became grateful that I wasn't tossed on the street with no compensation at all," wrote a woman, who was laid off last December when severance packages were still available. "I feel Tribune and the L.A. Times were mismanaged and put into a death spiral by a sale deal that benefited the Chandlers and left the papers with a sure-death debt load.