Seattle’s KUOW lays off eight employees

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Seattle’s KUOW is laying off eight employees as it cuts costs by $2 million for the 2025 fiscal year. 

The radio station will also leave three open positions unfilled and save $1 million by ending its RadioActive Youth Media program, GM Caryn G. Mathes said in a letter posted on KUOW’s website

Mathes said revenue growth at the station hasn’t been enough to cover rising costs of journalism. 

“In the short term, our budget remains strained, requiring us to take decisive actions to align our expenses with available funding,” Mathes said. 

The station’s 2024 fiscal year budget estimated $24.5 million in expenses and $21.6 million in revenue, Mathes said in emailed answers to questions from Current. She added that the station pulled $2.9 million from reserves to balance this year’s operating budget.

According to the most recent financial statement available on KUOW’s website, total expenses at the station rose from about $20.6 million in 2022 to $24.1 million in 2023. Total revenue and support, meanwhile, only increased from about $21.3 million in 2022 to $21.7 million in 2023. 

Expenses have grown with inflation, higher salaries from collective bargaining and modest merit increases, having a fully staffed organization unlike during the coronavirus pandemic, and investments in digital infrastructure and new “on-demand audio content,” Mathes said. 

Mathes said that KUOW is seeing the same trends as many other stations, with declining broadcast audiences and the challenges of monetizing new digital audiences.

“One difference we are seeing, however, is that our revenue from membership and advertising is actually fairly stable year-over-year,” Mathes said. “The challenge is that our costs are rising faster than current projected revenue availability.”

KUOW reported in a story on its website that the eight cuts amounted to 6% of the workforce.

Mathes told Current that the eliminated positions include four employees from the station’s donor engagement team, three from RadioActive, and one from the digital team. 

The three unfilled positions include one in the newsroom, one on the digital team, and one on the business support team.

“This approach aims to distribute the impact of the reductions fairly while maintaining a balanced and sustainable organizational structure,” Mathes said in her online letter. “We recognize that these staff reductions will significantly impact the affected employees, and we are committed to providing support and assistance throughout the transition process.” 

Two of the RadioActive employees were part of the union, according to Clare McGrane, a union steward and podcast producer at KUOW. The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists union represents reporters, producers, hosts, announcers and board operators at the station. 

“We are disappointed that KUOW management chose this route and were not able to resolve the station’s budget without cutting positions,” McGrane said in an emailed statement to Current. “Aside from our colleagues who have lost their jobs, the loss of RadioActive is a huge blow to Seattle and to the journalism industry. Thousands of talented young people (largely people of color and many queer) discovered a love of journalism in this program during its 20-year run.”

Layoffs and buyouts have been taking place at stations across the country. Last week, WBUR in Boston announced that it was laying off seven employees, with 24 more taking buyouts. KQED in San Francisco is also offering buyouts. 

This story has been updated with a statement from a union steward at the station and more information provided by KUOW. 

One thought on “Seattle’s KUOW lays off eight employees

  1. I read an article on the KUOW website about this situation. They laid off 8 employees to save $1 million. So they were averaging $125k each. Seems like a lot to be paid working for a public radio station. I’m betting they could fill those 8 spots for half the money and have just as good, if not better, content.

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