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Buzzfeed UK facing 17 editorial job cuts in restructure plan nearly halving journalist numbers

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Buzzfeed UK’s editorial team will be cut by nearly half, its own media reporter has claimed, down from 37 to 20 journalists based in London.

Mark Di Stefano tweeted today: “Management has just told BuzzFeed UK staff 17 of 37 editorial roles proposed to be cut in London –majority losses to the UK buzz team, and also cuts to news and celeb teams.”

Buzzfeed has confirmed the cuts, but says figures are not final.

Buzzfeed UK’s “Buzz” section covers pop culture, viral stories, and trends on the web. The company has said that under its proposed restructure, the biggest job losses would be in the Buzz team.

The UK news team would continue to cover social justice, politics and social news, Press Gazette understands, with some celebrity content creators staying on at the news website.

The proposed cuts have not yet been finalised, but follow Buzzfeed chief executive Jonah Peretti’s announcement last week that the company would be reducing its workforce by 15 per cent globally.

The move is designed to reduce costs and “improve” its operating model.

Buzzfeed made a pre-tax loss of £1.9m on turnover of £33.4m in 2017, with a total loss of £2.3m for the year, its latest financial figures reveal.

Buzzfeed Spain was shuttered entirely last Friday, according to a tweet by Buzzfeed España.

US news media was also hit hard by redundancies last week, with some 1,000 staff reportedly cut across regional newsbrand Gannett, Verizon (owner Huffpost, Yahoo and AOL) and Buzzfeed.

Buzzfeed News began asking readers for donations ranging from $5 to $100 in August last year so the outlet could “report more news”.

A number of Buzzfeed UK staff have signed an open letter demanding the company pay their US colleagues facing redundancy for “earned, accrued and vested” paid time off.

In the open letter signed by Buzzfeed News staff in the US and UK, and posted online, it is claimed that Buzzfeed executives are only planning to make such payments to staff in California because state law requires it. 

But current and laid-off Buzzfeed staffers want holiday payments to be made to sacked staff across the US. 

Buzzfeed News staff council – which describes itself as “a group of employees appointed to open up the lines of communication between news employees and company management” – wrote the letter raising “urgent concerns” about the digital publisher’s handling of its latest layoffs.

The letter read: “Every aspect of the way that these layoffs have been handled so far — from communication to execution to aftermath — has been deeply upsetting and disturbing, and it will take a long time to repair the damage that has been done to our trust in this company.”

It paying out for paid time off is an employer’s choice “and for a company that has always prided itself on treating its employees well, we unequivocally believe it is the only justifiable choice”.

The letter to chief executive Jonah Peretti, chief people officer Lenke Taylor and editor-in-chief Ben Smith has been signed by 425 current and former Buzzfeed US and UK staff.

Among UK reporters to put their name to the demand are Di Stefano, investigations correspondents Jane Bradley and Tom Warren, breaking news reporter Rachael Krishna and TV editor Scott Bryan.

Buzzfeed said in a statement: “We would like to have a dialogue with the news staff council and staff from other departments on paid time off payout.

“We are open to re-evaluating this decision but we think it is important for everyone to understand the tradeoffs in changing the paid time off practice, how we came to the decision to offer everyone a minimum of ten weeks salary, and the ways we’ve adjusted our severance to be fair and competitive in every state where we operate.”

Picture: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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