Agence France-Presse: ABC News to Cut Staff in ‘Transformation’ of News Division
For more than a day, I ignored this headline on the Drudge Report. It just wasn’t all that surprising to me. After all, newsrooms across the country–whether they be in print or television–have been cutting back for a while now, and ratings for the network nightly news broadcasts are nearing all-time lows. People just don’t want news that is overtly biased to the left.
That last sentence, of course, is there to point out that Fox News Channel–which is certainly fair, includes many talented and articulate liberal voices, but is undoubtedly on the right side of the traditional political spectrum–is doing exceedingly well.
Still, all that aside, I finally read the piece and these few sentences jumped off the page at me:
“In newsmagazines and long-form programming, we will move to a more flexible blend of staff and freelancers,” he added.
“When we are finished, many job descriptions will be different, different skill sets may be required, and, yes, we will likely have substantially fewer people on staff at ABC News,” Westin said.
Like other US television news operations, ABC News has been suffering from the weak advertising market and is looking to cut down on the costs associated with deploying a traditional two- or three-person crew for news assignments.
There’s a big, big difference in maintaining a newsroom full of staff journalists and full of freelancers. For example, on one hand you have Jimmy Olson, staff photographer for The Daily Planet, while on the other hand you have Peter Parker, freelance photographer–at least in the recent movies–for The Daily Bugle. Perry White and the Planet are paying Jimmy Olson’s health insurance premiums and the employer’s share of his taxes, while the irrepressibly cheap and ornery J. Jonah Jameson gets to leave Peter Parker out on his own. And while Parker might not need the same health insurance coverage as Olson might, he still is responsible for paying all of his taxes as an independent contractor.
ABC is making a fundamental shift to freelancers from staff because it can no longer afford to pay for the former. Faced with this reality of doing business, in ABC News’ tireless support of Barack Obama’s health care reform–complete with employer mandate–what, pray tell, do they expect to happen to businesses small and large across the country?