Layoffs at NPR

By Chris Ariens 

We realize this strays from the topic of TV News, but the confirmation of layoffs at National Public Radio this afternoon is another indication of the bruising year this has been for all media companies — for profit and non-profit.

NPR is reducing its workforce by 7%. 64 people will lose their jobs, another 21 positions will not be filled. The layoffs come despite near-record audience levels on-air and online.

Interestingly, just last night at the panel on how social networking is good business, Wired’s Jeff Howe said he was “bullish” on non-profit journalism. “The NPR model is working,” Howe said. We twittered the event on WebNewser. Click here to follow WebNewser to see our updates from the event.

The NPR press release explaining the cuts is after the jump…


Steep Decline in Corporate Underwriting Leads to Budget Reductions, Despite Growing Audiences

Washington, D.C.; December 10, 2008 – Confronted by an uncertain economy and a sharp decline in current and projected revenues from corporate underwriting, NPR today announced that it will reduce its workforce by 7 percent and cut expenses. The difficult moves come despite NPR reaching near-record audience levels on-air and online, with 26.4 million people listening to NPR programs each week and 8 million people visiting each month.

A significant number of the personnel cuts result from the upcoming cancellation of two NPR produced programs – Day to Day and News & Notes. Both programs, broadcast on NPR Member stations nationwide, will remain on the air through March 20, 2009.

Staff and expense reductions will be made in reporting, editorial and production areas; station services; digital media; research; communications and administrative support. A total of 64 filled positions have been eliminated against NPR’s current staff of 889, 21 open positions will not be filled and travel and discretionary expenses have been cut across the organization.

“The difficult decision to cancel two programs and eliminate the jobs of valued NPR employees was made after an exhaustive review of our entire organization, and with the greatest reluctance,” said Dennis Haarsager, NPR’s Interim President and CEO. “With all of NPR’s revenue sources under pressure, these actions were necessary to responsibly stabilize our finances and put NPR on a realistic path.”

In July, NPR projected a relatively manageable $2 million deficit for fiscal year 2009. With the rapid downturn in the U.S. economy this fall, corporate sponsorships – NPR’s second-largest source of funding after fees paid to NPR by stations – have declined and projections have dropped precipitously, raising the projected deficit to $23 million, and prompting the need for significant and immediate reductions in expenses. To help NPR align its budget, the Board of Directors has authorized NPR to draw down its operating reserves by a maximum of 30 percent in FY09 (10/1/08-9/30/09). Legal restrictions severely limit expenditure of the NPR endowment, which includes the 2003 bequest made by Joan B. Kroc.

“It’s crucial to realize that these programming changes are being driven by a loss in revenue, not relevance,” said Ellen Weiss, NPR’s Senior Vice President for News. “With near-record audience levels, now more than ever people are relying on NPR to better understand the extraordinary events occurring in the world.”

“News & Notes and Day to Day are staffed by smart, talented and hardworking journalists,” Weiss continued. “Today’s announcement is not a judgment of the work they did, but a careful decision about investing in the programming and services that will have the greatest potential to make an impact on a broad audience, and serve the most public radio stations.”