The first quarter of 2012 is almost over, and you know what that means: more layoffs at the Los Angeles Times. According to LAObserved, "as many as 20 people may be out" — but the business section is hiring a reporter to cover the food-and-agriculture beat.
Layoffs have become a fact of life at the LAT, whose parent, Tribune Co., is still in bankruptcy. What appears to be going on now is that the paper is chopping back on its features and special sections, concentrating instead on news, business, sports, and entertainment — the core coverage areas. Three stand-alone weekly section, for example, were recently rolled into one Saturday section.
This happened at the same time the LAT announced the introduction of a paywall.
Economic pressure on the newspaper business has caused a reversal — a slow reversal — of a trend that defined the growth of big metro dailies like the LATimes and the New York Times. The creation of additional sections covering topics like food, health, science meant that newspapers needed additional platforms for ads. This transformed broadsheets into hefty print products. The Wall Street Journal has defied this reversal, adding lifestyle sections since 2010. But that's a case of a paper that primarily covered the financial markets going for a more general interest/metro New York mix.
As ad dollars have moved elsewhere (like the Web) and newspaper circulation has fallen, these sections and their staffs have become difficult if not impossible to support. Papers may be printed with color photography and graphics now, but the physical product is looking more like it did twenty or thirty years ago. The focus is on news, and for the LATimes, increasingly that news is local, not national.
The LAT isn't alone in losing staffers. The Chicago Tribune, another Tribune paper, endured layoffs last week, losing a reported 15 employees.
UPDATE: Craig Tuner, an editor in the Calendar section, is among those leaving, but The Wrap reports he's taken a voluntary buyout.