ABC News is going to cut about a quarter of its staff in the next two months. That means about 300 to 400 people will either take buyouts or get released. According to the New York Times, the cuts are what ABC News President David Westin calls “… a ‘fundamental transformation’ for the division that would result in a leaner, smaller organization.” Westin insists the network isn’t in immediate financial danger, but that he’s making the cuts to hedge against an uncertain future.
But perhaps missed in this move is how ABC News is going to transform its remaining jobs. ABC News is switching to dependency on the VJ model, where reporters shoot, write and edit their own work. In his memo to the network, Westin talked about depending on more digital equipment. (This is something “Nightline” reporters already do.) We have seen this coming for a long time now, and expect it will take root at more local affiliates. The equipment is becoming easier to use, and it helps build new efficiencies. We don’t think VJs are a one-size-fits-all answer, but they do work in many situations. ABC News appears to be adopting the model that is the current state-of-the-art. Despite the protests of photogs and reporters alike, this is the new reality. The new tools of our trade make it easier to shoot and edit, and we predict that new voices will be found – people who never before had a chance to prove their storytelling chops nationally.