Unlike some of the major newsroom cuts of recent years, David Westin isn’t reenacting the layoff scene from Broadcast News at ABC (NYSE: DIS) News. The president of ABC News is trying to avoid that — and worse — by planning a different kind of future for the Disney news network and an environment where work doesn’t mean keeping an old treadmill running. The first major step was announced Wednesday: ABC News is offering buyouts to every non-union employee who is not under a personal services contract. It’s not as ideal as, say, saving everyone’s jobs, but it’s Westin’s best shot at keeping most of them.
Westin is on the board of advisers of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, where he’s seen how graduates are piecing together a living from multiple freelance jobs. His own father only had two employers in his career: AC Spark Plug and Ford; Westin recalled seeing a video that says the average college grad could have 10-14 jobs per person before age 38.
If enough people don’t take the buyout, then Westin will resort to layoffs. How many is enough? He isn’t saying nor will he confirm the numbers of 20-25 percent being tossed around. But he did talk about the shift in strategy, what the changes mean for ABCNews.com, and more in an interview with paidContent. Edited highlights follow:
How did you get to this strategy? We started in late October, as I recall. It came from, I suppose, two things: one is, we