WBUR will reduce staff by more than 30 through layoffs, buyouts 

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WBUR in Boston will lay off seven staffers and 24 more will take buyouts, CEO Margaret Low said in an email to staff Wednesday.

Low had previously warned of possible layoffs pointing to financial challenges that require the station to reduce expenses by $4 million prior to fiscal year 2025. 

“It’s our belief that $4 million dollars in cost reductions was as much as this organization could bear,” Low wrote in the email, which was also posted on the station’s website. “Many people advised us to cut deeper than we needed to. We did not do that because we don’t think you can cut your way to success.”

The staff reductions represent upwards of 14% of staff, according to a WBUR news article

Among those taking buyouts are four members of the station’s senior leadership team: Pete Matthews, executive director of business partnerships; Del Reese, senior director of finance; Mike Steffon, director of membership and campaign strategy; and Karl Voelker, executive director of engineering, operations and IT.

“This is a significant loss of institutional history,” Low wrote. Three of the four have worked for WBUR or its licensee Boston University for more than 25 years, she said.

Three of the seven staff laid off were part-time employees, Low wrote. 

“We’re also hopeful that some of those who were notified today will find new opportunities at WBUR,” she said. 

The number of staff taking buyouts could fluctuate, as they have until May 1 to commit to the package.

In her letter, Low announced additional measures to reduce costs, including eliminating nine unfilled positions. The station will also cut travel costs and aim to spend less on contracted services or negotiate lower costs, she said. 

Low said the station will no longer buy Peet’s Coffee and begin a trade deal with a local roaster that will save the station “thousands of dollars” per year. The station will also stop covering cell phone costs for all non-represented employees.  

The cuts also have programming implications. The Common, a daily news podcast, will transition to weekly, Low said. 

“[T]he next era of The Common will be all about expanding the show’s presence on our local air, our digital platforms, in the community,” she said. Low said the station hadn’t seen the audience and revenue growth from the podcast that “we were hoping for.”

In a statement shared with Current, the bargaining unit of WBUR employees represented by the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists said, “We are disappointed that all of our jobs were not preserved through cost-saving alternatives. However, management acted on our request to offer a voluntary separation plan and we understand that this plan helped to reduce the number of job losses and will allow laid off colleagues to apply for open internal positions. We hope management will work with the union to forge a path ahead and make our journalism stronger.”

This article has been updated with the statement from employees represented by SAG-AFTRA.

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