Verizon-Owned Huffington Post Lays Off 15 Unionized Writers, Eliminates Opinion Section

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 20: Lydia Polgreen speaks onstage at the Committee To Protect Journalists' International Press Freedom Awards at the Grand Hyatt on November 20, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for CPJ)
Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for CPJ; Edit: BNN

The Huffington Post began laying off employees Thursday as part of its parent company Verizon Media Group’s corporate restructuring plans.

HuffPost employees started receiving calendar invitations to meet with human resources in the morning, according to HuffPost reporter Andy Campbell. Among the areas impacted was the opinion editorial team, which was eliminated, Deputy Opinion Editor Chloe Angyal reported.

Verizon is cutting about 800 jobs, or 7 percent of its media and advertising employees, as it reorganizes the troubled division. The wireless company had hoped to create an ad business that could compete with Google and Facebook. It spent roughly $10 billion buying up former Internet pioneers Yahoo and AOL. However, Verizon found benefits from integrating those two companies were less than expected. The company slashed the value of its media unit by nearly $5 billion in December. The new CEO of Verizon’s media division, Guru Gowrappan, informed employees of the layoffs in an email Wednesday. He says the division’s priorities will now include focusing on mobile and video products and stemming declines with desktop users.

According to Politico media reporter Michael Calderone, the number of unionized employees axed from the media company stands at 15 with more cuts scheduled to be announced.

Several writers impacted by the layoffs took to Twitter to announce their firing.

“Today is a tough day at HuffPost. A number of good people lost their jobs as part of company-wide layoffs, despite Verizon taking in nearly $4 billion in government-funded tax breaks last year and a promising that workers will ‘share in the company’s success,” the Writers Guild of America, East said in a statement. “This is one of the many reasons why staffs working in the media industry continue to join together to fight for workplace protections that induce collectively bargained severance packages and fair layoff notifications. Everyone who works in media needs to organize their workplace.”

The layoffs come as digital media company BuzzFeed announced it is cutting 15 percent of its jobs, roughly 200 people, to trim costs and become profitable.

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti wrote employees Wednesday that the layoffs will help BuzzFeed avoid having to raise money from investors again. “Unfortunately, revenue growth by itself isn’t enough to be successful in the long run. The restructuring we are undertaking will reduce our costs and improve our operating model so we can thrive and control our own destiny, without ever needing to raise funding again,” wrote Peretti. These changes will allow us to be the clear winner in the market as the economics of digital media continue to improve.

The privately held company has not been profitable for several years. It has raised hundreds of millions from such investors as Comcast’s NBCUniversal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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