The world of TV news may sound exciting and glamorous, but it just got a little less so. ABC News announced that it's cutting its staff up to 25 percent, and over the next couple of days, letters will be sent out to as many as 400 employees' homes, offering them a voluntary separation package. Should they reject this voluntary offer, betting that they will survive the layoffs, and are then asked to leave, the severance package will be substantially less.
And that offer is just going to all full-time, U.S.-based, non-union, non-contract employees. "The response to this voluntary program will determine the extent to which we will need to make further reductions," said ABC News President David Westin in an email sent to employees. He says 20-25 percent of the staff must be cut. "We anticipate that between now and the end of the year ABC News will undergo a fundamental transformation that will ultimately affect every corner of the enterprise," Westin further stated.
But ABC, whose parent company is Disney, is actually making reductions much quicker than that. Employees who receive the letters will have 30 days to accept or reject the separation packages. After that, the reduction is expected to be complete 60-70 days from now, according to Westin.
Many of the employees that are kept on will be required to multitask. "We will take the example set by Nightline of editorial staff who shoot and edit their own material and follow it throughout all of our programs," says Westin. That means more dependency on what newsrooms have traditionally called "one man bands:" a reporter/photographer/editor/producer. Unfortunately, the highest paid employees who have been on staff the longest, have generally specialized in just one of those functions. It's the younger, lower-paid, less-experienced employees who are more familiar all aspects of the news gathering process.
"Moves like these get rid of the experienced workers who produce quality newscasts," laments one network news veteran. "When you expect one person to do everything, it's impossible to do it all well. You get a jack of all trades, master of none, and it's definitely reflected in the quality of the newscast."
Westin, however, claims "We will be guided by one central principle: In everything, we will ensure that we put our audiences first - providing them with first-rate journalism covering the things that matter the most to them in ways no one else does."
In an exclusive interview with TV Newser's Chris Ariens, Westin said, "This doesn't have anything to do with seniority or how much anybody gets paid. This has to do with doing our jobs in a better more efficient way; more flexible and nimble. And, yes, in a way that absolutely costs less. There will be less layers, less people touching a piece."
Delia Camasca, a former ABC Human Resources executive who was laid off last year and given a generous severance package, is now a talent acquisition specialist and career coach. She offers ABC employees who are wondering whether to take the money and run, or to stick around in hopes of being able to survive the layoffs, the following advice:
- "Consider where you are in your career. If you're an older worker who has focused one one particular skill, take the severance package as a gift, and look at it as an opportunity to reinvent yourself, to reassess your life, and to find peace in doing something else you've always wanted to do.
- "If you're younger and have the ability to multi-task, I'd say reject the severance package and show the company you're loyal, flexible, and willing to do anything they ask."
What would you were wrestling with the question of 'Should I stay or should I go now?'