CNN lays off 50, cites tech changes

Eliminated posts in photo, editing realms

CNN announced the elimination of at least 50 staff positions Friday as the company follows through on the results of a three-year review that found technical advances reduced the need for certain posts such as photographers and editors. Layoffs include CNN’s Atlanta headquarters, Gotham, Washington, Los Angeles and Miami; at least a dozen cuts come from the news org’s D.C. operation.

The Turner news cabler has been “analyzing how we utilize and deploy photojournalists,” senior VP Jack Womack wrote in an email to staff of the review. “Consumer and pro-sumer technologies are simpler and more accessible,” he wrote. “Small cameras are now high broadcast quality. More of this technology is in the hands of more people. After completing this analysis, CNN determined that some photojournalists will be departing the company.”

A similar paragraph explained that higher-tech editing software allowed more remote editing, and thus called for fewer editors.

Worldwide, CNN has had two zero-sum reorgs since August, neither of which resulted in headcount losses. But this latest round differs in that laid-off staffers have not been invited to apply for newly created jobs within the division.

In October, the company’s Atlanta office eliminated and then immediately hired for roughly the same number of positions — slightly more, in fact — and required staffers in flux to either accept severance or reapply for roles with broader job descriptions.

A similar restructuring — also with no resulting loss in headcount — took place at CNN sister net HLN in August, as that network ramped up to the launch of web initiative HLNtv.

HLN topper Scot Safon essentially told staff then not to worry: “(W)e are reorganizing the dayside editorial team to best meet the audience’s multiplatform demands,” he said in an email. “Those affected by this reorganization have been notified and new opportunities within this team will be posted shortly.”

A CNN spokeswoman said Friday that while she didn’t want to minimize the difficulty of losing a job, the net planned to staff back up in the near future.

“We anticipate the number of positions in the overall organization in the next six months will remain roughly flat with what we had this past year,” she said.

“We cannot begin to thank these individuals enough for their service to CNN,” Womack said. “They leave with our respect and our sincere best wishes.”

Technology is causing newsrooms nationwide to shrink, or at least to require more workproduct from the people employed. Bridget Grogan, who runs the U of Florida’s ABC News on Campus (which contributes reporting to the Alphabet’s local news bureaus), told Variety last September that new TV reporters were expected to be multidisciplinary. “We’re getting calls from newsroom directors who want students who are able to write, post to the web, and blog,” she said, so her students are trained to shoot, edit and upload footage, as well. “Our students know how to be a one-man band.”

Thus, career photographers and video editors are finding that there’s less demand for specialization and more jobs for jack-of-all-trades generalists.