LA Weekly has been hit with massive layoffs after Voice Media Group completed the sale of the alternative paper to Semanal Media, LLC. So far, nine of the 13-member editorial staff have been axed, including all but one of the staff writers. What happens next remains to be seen.
The gutting of LA Weekly continues a trend that has seen newspaper companies across the U.S. lay off staff. Over the last couple of weeks, layoffs have hit The Denver Post, Wisconsin State Journal, and The Detroit News.
Voice Media Sold Alternative Weekly Newspaper to Focus on Digital Media Business
Back in January, Voice Media Group put LA Weekly up for sale. The alternative weekly newspaper was founded in 1978 by a group of people that included actor Michael Douglas.
LA Weekly is known for its cultural coverage of Los Angeles and has won more awards from the Association of Alternative Media than any other American publication. Together with the online edition, LA Weekly has more than three million monthly readers.
While LA Weekly was a profitable paper, Voice Media Group, which also owns other alternative weeklies, put the paper up for sale to focus on its digital business. In October, it finally sold to Semanal Media, a mysterious, newly minted entity, created for the purpose of the transaction. Semanal Media does not have a web site and no one knows who owns Semanal or where the company is based.
Shortly after the deal was completed, Semanal started to gut staff. The layoffs were so massive that editor Mara Shalhoup compared it to the Red Wedding on Game of Thrones.
We were expecting there to be some pain with the sale of @LAWeekly. But we weren’t expecting the Red Wedding. That’s how deep the cuts are. 1/
— Mara Shalhoup (@mshalhoup) November 29, 2017
Nine of the 13 members of the editorial team are out of work. All but one staff writer remains.
On November 9, Semanal appointed Brian Calle to manage LA Weekly’s operations. Calle was a former Opinion Editor for the Orange County Register. He told the Los Angeles Times that Semanal would not change the LA Weekly’s editorial bent, but the gutting of staff suggests otherwise.
More Newspaper Company Layoffs in 2017
A large number of traditional newspapers have laid off staff in 2017 as they struggle to maintain readers and advertisers. The best way to reduce expenses and balance the budget is through layoffs.
Most recently, The Detroit News has offered buyouts to its staff as it looks to “realign” its coverage and resources to prepare for “a tight budget in the year ahead.” The buyouts go into effect December 22. The deadline to accept the offer is 5:00 p.m. December 4. If too few employees accept the buyout, layoffs are likely to follow.
In October, another round of layoffs hit the Wisconsin State Journal. A few weeks later, The Denver Post announced more layoffs, just one year after the paper reduced its workforce by 26.
And Norfolk-based Virginian-Pilot offered buyouts to around 70 its workers; a move that could reduce its workforce by around 10%. Only employees with 25 or more years at the paper received the buyout offer.
Media woes will continue in 2018 with cash-strapped newspapers, big and small, reducing expenses through buyouts and layoffs.
“LA Weekly Lays Off Staffers After Sale to Secret Buyers,” The Wrap, November 29, 2017.
“About Us,” LA Weekly, last accessed November 28, 2017.
“Brian Calle wants to turn LA Weekly into ‘the cultural center’ of the city,” Los Angeles Times, November 9, 2017.