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CNN Lays Off 50 Staffers, Citing 'Workflow Changes,' Reliance On User-Gen

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CNN is cutting dozens of editorial jobs following a three-year review of its “workflow” operations, TV Newser reported. According to a memo obtained by paidContent and attributed to CNN SVP Jack Womack, technology and user-gen has made the network a little less reliant on editorial staffers, particularly photojournalists.

TV Newser estimated that 50 jobs would be eliminated at CNN. A number of the layoffs were made at CNN’s Atlanta headquarters, as the network plans to rely on editors from different locations. Nevertheless, cuts were also handed down in New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Miami.

Apart from reducing staffing size, Womack’s memo said that the review also led to changes in how photojournalists are assigned stories. Some photojournalists lost their jobs as CNN’s review found that user-gen, through CNN iReport, and social media in general did a fine enough job in producing and distributing breaking news stories. The review also looked at how the number of stories across broadcast, online and mobile tend to correspond during various dayparts.

The layoffs come as a number of news organizations are trying to better position themselves to cover the U.S. presidential election and the summer Olympics. In past years, that would tend to mean staffing up, but with the economy weak, newspapers, broadcasters and other publishers are more likely to look to technology to fill the gaps once made up by staffers.

Womack’s full memo appears on the following page.

From: “Womack, Jack”
Date: Fri, 11 Nov 2011 15:58:35 -0500
To: “*CNN ALL Cities ImageSound (TBS)”, *CNN ALL Cities Tech Ops

For the past three years, we have been analyzing our work process across Image + Sound, both in the field and in our editing and production areas.

Our goal has been to make sure we have the right resources in the right places to meet the demands of all of our programs. Technology investments in our newsrooms now allow more desk-top editing and publishing for broadcast and online. This evolution allows more people in more places to edit and publish than ever before. As a result of these technology and workflow changes, CNN is reducing the number of media editors in our work force in Atlanta. CNN Image + Sound will continue with high end craft editing that has positive impact on our networks and platforms.

We also spent a great deal of time analyzing how we utilize and deploy photojournalists across all of our locations in the U.S. We looked at the evolution of daytime and evening line-ups. We analyzed how stories are assigned and more importantly the ratio of stories assigned that actually make it on to our networks or platforms. We know that we have to sharpen our focus on stories assigned to ensure that this great work gets on air. We looked at production demands, down time, and international deployments. We looked at the impact of user-generated content and social media, CNN iReporters and of course our affiliate contributions in breaking news. Consumer and pro-sumer technologies are simpler and more accessible. Small cameras are now high broadcast quality. More of this technology is in the hands of more people. After completing this analysis, CNN determined that some photojournalists will be departing the company.

We cannot begin to thank these individuals enough for their service to CNN. They leave with our respect and our sincere best wishes.

Now that we have completed this three-year review, we believe that we have the right resources in the right places and the proper staffing at Image + Sound, and that the unit is well-positioned to have an even more positive impact on our networks and platforms.


20 Responses to “CNN Lays Off 50 Staffers, Citing 'Workflow Changes,' Reliance On User-Gen”

  1. They could have laid off a few of the overpaid talking heads and hired more photographers. That would have allowed them to get out there and actually produce original content, making them different in the cable news market. Our problem right now is that there are lots of people telling the same story. We need journalists out there telling stories not doing live shots. Quit showing me pretty people talking into the camera and she us more stories from the news is happening. Shaky user video isn’t going to do that.

  2. There are some things I like about CNN, but by and large it has been a spiral down into sensational journalism. Maybe that is what the public wants, I don’t know, but more and more I keep saying “that is news?” Using social media or icam-whatever (enter your own catch phrase) does have it’s place, but it does drag down content and doesn’t replace real (tele) journalism.

  3. Rodney Dangerfield

    CNN lays off it’s workers — the people who actually cover the news, and not just sit in a studio talking about it —- and they wonder why they still don’t get NO RESPECT?

  4. Albert Einstein

    There are 3 ways of doing TV — good, fast and cheap.

     However — you can only pick TWO.

    Cheap & Good = not fast. (This is documentary model HBO, PBS etc who take 6+ months to do a story)

    Fast & Good = isn’t cheap. (This the BBC, Al Jazeera, 60 Minutes etc model)

    Cheap & Fast = no good. This is the CNN model.

  5. T. Turner

    Some of the cameramen and editors who were let go are the among the finest people at CNN. One even was portrayed in the HBO movie ‘Live From Baghdad’.

    After Christiane left (one of the few remaining dedicated journalists) this is yet another death knell for the any journalistic standards that CNN pretended to have.

    Jeff Bewkes wants CNN as long as it makes money — he has no interest in freedom of the press, investigating wrongdoing etc etc.

  6. Adam Smith

    If CNN wants to save money, I can think of a few overpaid and under-worked Vice-Presidents who should be let go.

    As well as some overpriced ‘talent’ — Morgan, Cooper, O’Brien, Blitzer etc.

    Getting rid of the people who do the real work is never a good economic model – trust me – I know.

  7. J. Womackkkkkkkk

    The idea of replacing hardworking and underpaid cameramen who risk their lives & limbs getting original footage for CNN for more than 25 years with free crappy shaky stuff that no one can verify is real or not — well, that’s a brilliant idea.

    Shareholders: stand up and applaud this new financial model – until the channel goes bankrupt, because no one is watching.

  8. lord lucan

    CNN – why are you trying to compete with YouTube and not 60 Minutes.

    Quality always wins …. you keep downgrading the quality of the network, and your ratings keep suffering.

    Can’t you see the connection?

    Your management resembles characters from Dilbert !!