Washington Post CEO Alarms Staff With Layoff News

The Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post caused a panicked reaction among its staff when the outlet’s CEO held a “town hall” meeting on Wednesday, during which he advised employees that less than 10% of the workforce is being laid off.

Fred Ryan told staffers that the personnel cuts would come in the first quarter of next year and would most directly affect the newsroom.

Just two weeks ago, the paper announced it was ceasing production of its Sunday print magazine and cutting ten employees in the Washington newsroom because of “economic headwinds” afflicting the corporate media.

Ryan said during the Wednesday meeting that the layoffs would be in the “single-digit percentage” range and come in positions that are “no longer serving readers.” He did attempt to give employees hope that the remaining workforce would be repositioned in ways that offer value to customers.

Even though Ryan said during the meeting there would be several positions eliminated, leading to a “difficult time” for some, Kathy Baird, the paper’s top communications officer, issued a statement providing there would not be a “net reduction in Post head count” after the layoffs.

As Ryan appeared to be preparing to conclude Wednesday’s meeting and leave the room, several staffers began shouting questions and objections at him. Ryan showed no interest in further discussion, telling those present that he was “not going to turn the town hall into a grievance session.”

One employee demanded that Ryan detail what he planned to do to “protect people’s jobs,” asking him if they would be treated as the magazine staffers were. Ryan just said that he would provide “more information as we move forward” and quickly moved to exit the room.

The Post staffers’ guild issued a statement later on Wednesday that said Ryan’s “behavior is unacceptable from any leader, but especially the leader of a news organization whose core values include transparency and accountability.” The guild told its members to “stay tuned,” telling them that it would not “let Ryan turn his back on workers with urgent questions and valid concerns.”

Economic reporters have said that it is expected the Post will not turn a profit this year but is expected to remain in business for the time being. Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon, bought the paper in 2013 for what appeared to be at the time a bargain price of $250 million. The company employs around 2,500 people.