The Washington Post’s all-hands meeting turned chaotic Wednesday after the newspaper’s publisher announced looming layoffs – and then left the room as concerned employees shouted questions.
The Jeff Bezos-owned broadsheet will conduct a round of layoffs during the first quarter of 2023, publisher Fred Ryan announced during what was supposed to be an hour-long meeting.
Ryan blamed the cuts on worsening economic conditions, according to an account published on the newspaper’s website.
Video taken from inside the internal meeting and shared by Washington Post national correspondent Annie Gowen showed despondent employees peppering Ryan with questions about the job cuts to no avail.
“We’re not going to turn the town hall into a grievance session,” Ryan declared, speaking over a crowd of frustrated employees.
One worker could be heard referencing the Washington Post’s recent decision to end its Sunday magazine. The magazine’s 10 employees were given pink slips when that move was announced in late November.
“Fred, you talked about positions getting eliminated. What are you going to do to protect people’s jobs? Are they going to be treated like the magazine staffers were?” the worker asked.
“We’ll have more information as we move forward. Thank you very much,” Ryan replied.
Journalists for the paper that boasts the slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness” were left flabbergasted as their boss stormed out of the room.
The Washington Post Guild, which represents employees, said it was “outraged by the unceremonious announcement” of the layoffs, as well as the publisher’s refusal to answer questions.
“This behavior is unacceptable from any leader, but especially the leader of a news organization whose core values include transparency and accountability,” the union said in a statement. “There is no justification for The Post to lay off employees in a period of record growth and hiring.”
During the town hall, Ryan said the layoffs would not result in a reduction of overall headcount.
Washington Post chief of communications Kathy Baird confirmed the layoffs. Baird said the cuts were expected to impact “a single-digit percentage of our employee base,” which consists of about 2,500 workers.
“The Washington Post is evolving and transforming to put our business in the best position for future growth. We are planning to direct our resources and invest in coverage, products, and people in service of providing high value to our subscribers and new audiences,” Baird said.