June 24, 2024

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NPR will cut about 100 workers in one of the largest layoffs ever

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NPR plans to cut about 100 employees — roughly 10 percent of its workforce — in one of the largest layoffs in the nonprofit news giant’s 53-year history.

“Our financial outlook has darkened significantly over recent weeks,” CEO John Lansing wrote in a note to the task force on Wednesday, noting that NPR projected its ad revenues would be about $30 million less than projected in a tightening ad economy. The projected decline in sponsorship has centered in podcasting, a segment in which NPR has invested heavily in recent years, with popular shows like “Fresh Air.”

The erosion of advertising dollars has affected other organizations, leading to layoffs at CNN, Gannett and Vox, among others this winter. The Washington Post has canceled its Sunday magazine and video game hub, Launcher, among cutbacks that have laid off about 30 employees of its 1,000-member news staff. Major technology companies that rely on advertising, such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, have also announced thousands of layoffs.

NPR announced about $20 million in cuts in November, mainly through a hiring freeze and travel restrictions. But Lansing said these expected savings will not be enough. “In contrast to the financial challenges we faced during the worst of the pandemic, we expect costs to increase and there is no sign of a rapid recovery in revenue,” he wrote in the note. “We have to make adjustments to what we control, and that is our spending.”

He said details of which departments would face the biggest cuts would be worked out by the week of March 20, through “internal talks and bargaining with our unions”. As part of the current belt-tightening, NPR will also remove most of the job postings. It is unclear if any of her audio files will be deleted.

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NPR relies primarily on four sources of funding: advertising sponsorships, dues from member stations, charitable gifts and federal dollars that typically amount to less than 2 percent of its operating budget.

The organization has suffered previous financial setbacks that have led to program cuts, layoffs and furloughs. In 2008, amid a recession, NPR laid off 64 employees, about 7 percent of its staff. It subsequently recorded an operating deficit in four of the next five years.

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 has resulted in a combination of wage cuts, furloughs and projected disability of about $10 million. But NPR quickly recovered, reporting $293 million in revenue and an operating surplus of $28.8 million during fiscal 2021.

She’s erased some of her red ink over the years by dipping into an endowment funded in part by a $200 million bequest from the estate of Joan Kroc, heiress to the McDonald’s fast food fortune. The endowment had a balance of $368.2 million at the end of its fiscal year in September 2021, the most recent data available.