LAist offers staff buyouts amid budget gap

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Courtesy of Southern California Public Radio

LAist in Pasadena, Calif., will offer voluntary buyouts to staff due to rising expenses and declining sponsorship revenue, CCO Kristen Muller said in a statement Thursday. 

The organization is “facing a significant budget shortfall over the next two years in the range of $4-$5 million,” Muller said.

“This is the result of a decline in advertising, the end of our investment reserves, slower-than-anticipated digital monetization, and overall cost increases that have not kept pace with revenue,” she added. 

Muller said the station still faces a budget gap despite reducing “all non-salary expenses as much as possible.” 

The buyout will be available to full- and part-time staff working at least 24 hours per week, she said. 

“Our cost cutting comes at a time when our sustained audiences have never been larger,” she said. “Our efforts to reach and engage people on digital channels are succeeding. But the revenue is not following pace. This does not mean we are retreating from our cross-platform ambitions, or our desire to be a daily digital habit for Southern Californians seeking trustworthy news and information. In fact, our work has never been more vital, and we are committed to its growth.”

In an email to supporters Thursday, she said the organization hopes to avoid layoffs by offering buyouts, she said, “but that remains unclear.”

“Sustaining high-quality journalism is becoming increasingly difficult,” she added in the email. “Everyday costs are going up; annual dues to bring you national [programming] increase yearly and local costs are rising too. The traditional financial models just don’t work anymore. Most advertising dollars that once supported us are now heading to giant tech platforms like Facebook and Google, resulting in a significant drop in sponsorship revenue — a tough pill to swallow.”

LAist reporter and union steward Caitlin Hernández posted the email on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

Southern California Public Radio, LAist’s parent organization, showed a nearly 9% decrease in underwriting from fiscal year 2022 to FY23 in its most recent independent auditor’s report. The report also found a more than $7 million gap between revenue and expenses.

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