Will LB Post’s Small Staff Be Able to Keep it Running?

By Jon LeSage
In December 2023, previous owner Pacific6, and its Pacific Community Media unit, converted its LB Post and LB Business Journal newspapers over to non-profit organization status. That trend has been happening all over the country. Image source: LB Post.

On March 22, management at the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal laid off nine of its 14 staff members. Melissa Evans, chief executive officer for the Post and Business Journal, wrote in a March 24 Long Beach Post commentary that it was “an enormous blow … but it was better than letting the community asset the Post has become disappear altogether.”

Members of a newly formed union, the Long Beach Media Guild, say that the layoffs were really firings over employees attempting to build a union. Long Beach Media Guild would be a unit of the NewsGuild-CWA labor union.

Evans referenced the December 2023 announcement that the news outlets would transfer over to non-profit status. That changeover “retained nearly all of our previous staff based on the promise of several large donations, some of which did not materialize,” Evans wrote in the March 24 commentary.

Another nine staff members were laid off between September and November 2023, Long Beach Post reporter Jason Ruiz said to the Signal Tribune. That newspaper also reported that Ruiz participated in a downtown strike on March 25 in solidarity with his nine other coworkers who were just laid off by the non-profit news outlet.

Jerlene Tatum, an education advocate and community organizer, just posted an interview with former LB Post Reporter and Podcaster Jackie Rae in LB4D News. It ran live on Facebook on Tatum’s Talk of the Town podcast on Sunday, March 24. You can read about it and watch it here: https://longbeach4d.blogspot.com/2024/03/lb-post-employee-jackie-rae-bombshell.html

Rae went into detail on several problems that the Long Beach Journalism Initiative and its two newspapers have been going through for a long period prior to the non-profit conversion. The layoffs, or firings, confirmed long-held beliefs that its most vocal critics have been articulating. Rae discussed financial problems, owner censorship, labor and management struggles, and the possibility of the displaced staff starting up a different news platform to carry out their mission to inform and engage the local community.

Long Beach has been part of a nationwide trend – the downsizing of newspaper staff who report on the vital information that residents, workers, business owners, city officials, and other decision makers need to know.

“As mayor of a city that values and has benefitted from a robust network of independent local media outlets, I’m deeply concerned by the recent layoffs and ongoing dispute between the workers and management at our city’s largest newsrooms, the Long Beach Post and the Long Beach Business Journal,” Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson said on an X social media post. “Our democracy depends on a free and independent media sector. Local news outlets play a critical role in keeping residents informed about what’s happening in their communities.”

A Big-Picture Look at What’s Happening

To get a bird’s-eye view at what’s been happening over at the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal, let’s take a look at a few facts and figures.

During 2023, more than 21,400 media jobs were lost in the U.S., the highest (excluding 2020) since 2009, when more than 22,300 jobs were cut, and 2008, when 28,800 or so jobs were cut. Both of those losses came in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and Great Recession, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. This Chicago-based company provides outplacement and career transitioning services. The company releases a monthly report called Challenger Job Cuts.

I know about that reality very well, having been laid off as an editor in 2009. It was the first time that this media company, which started in 1961, had ever laid off any of its employees.

Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications based in Evanston, Ill., reported that the loss of local newspapers accelerated in 2023 to an average of 2.5 per week. That left more than 200 counties as “news deserts.” That industry term and trend says that more than half of all U.S. counties now have limited access to reliable local news and information, researchers at the Medill School of Journalism say.

Journalists have been going on strike in cities all over the country over the past two years, including New York, Los Angeles., Washington D.C., San Antonio, Naples, Fla., Rochester N.Y. and Pittsburgh, according to National Public Radio. The pressure has been on media professionals as audiences dwindle, budgets are slashed, and layoffs continue.

In January 2024, about 400 employees at the Los Angeles Times went on a one-day strike following announcement of layoffs. It was the first time in the newspaper’s 142-year history that employees had walked off the job, according to ABC 7 Los Angeles. The parent company had announced it was laying off more than 20% of newsroom staff, which is represented by the Media Guild of the West, that newspaper reported in January.

This has been a big blow for supporters of independent journalism in Long Beach and in the region. Advocates had hoped that converting over to non-profit status would be the foundation that the two newspapers could thrive from.

"Empowering local journalism is paramount and we are proud to have supported the LB Post and Business Journal these past five years. We wish Melissa and the entire Long Beach Journalism Initiative team great success as they fulfill a critical public service for our city," said John Molina, CEO of Pacific6 and Pacific Community Media, the previous owner company of the two newspapers.

You can follow the Long Beach Media Guild on its X page: https://twitter.com/LBMGuild

Jon LeSage is a resident of Long Beach and a veteran business media reporter and editor. You can reach him at jtlesage1@yahoo.com.

 

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