Breaking jobs on TV: ABC News to shed hundreds

ABC News will sharply reduce its news-gathering staff through buyouts and possible layoffs, the company said on Tuesday. ABC employees said they expected the cutbacks would
affect 300 to 400 people, or roughly 25 percent of the news division's work force.
The cuts at ABC, a unit of the Walt Disney Company, are among the steepest ever made at a network news division. A spokesman said ABC News currently employed roughly 1,500 people.
In a memorandum to staff members, the ABC News president David Westin called the cutbacks a "fundamental transformation" for the division that would result in a leaner, smaller organization. "The time has come to rethink how we do what we are doing," he wrote. He said that the reductions were an effort to get ahead of economic pressures squeezing the broadcast business.
"These are forces larger than any of us — business forces, just the realities of broadcast versus digital, as well as financial forces, given the advertising market," he said.
For decades, the network news divisions have suffered audience erosion, the result of competition from cable, the Internet and changing consumer habits. Under pressure from their parent companies, they have endured rounds of smaller cuts over the years. One of ABC's chief competitors, CBS News, said this month that it was laying off dozens of employees.
ABC network will also further reduce its news bureau structure by replacing some bureaus with more flexible so-called digital journalists who work on their own in foreign capitals. Furthermore, it will expect more staff members to produce, record and edit much of their own material.
Jason Samuels, an associate professor of journalism at New York University and a former senior producer at ABC, said Tuesday's move "makes sense," but added, "ultimately the pressure to continue churning out network quality news with a pared-down staff is a recipe for burnout."

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