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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Irwin

New York Public Radio reduces staff, cuts shows

10/5/2023


New York Public Radio laid off 6% of its staff Thursday, affecting 20 employees, according to an internal memo. It also cut podcasts “More Perfect” and “La Brega” as part of a broader cost-cutting effort.


In addition to the eliminated roles, two additional staffers will be transferred into new positions and three have accepted buyouts. The company will also forgo its upcoming promotions cycle and annual increases for non-union staff.


According to the memo, the company will prioritize local news coverage, multiplatform audio, classical music and partnerships and community engagement.


NYPR is the largest public radio group in the country. It’s home to WNYC 93.9 FM, classical radio station WQXR 105.9 FM, the news website Gothamist and performance venue The Greene Space, among other brands. The company also produces well-known programs like “Radiolab” and “On The Media.”


“La Brega” covered Puerto Rican history, with a focus on locals' perspectives, and, in its second season, music and humor.


“We hope to keep La Brega and its beautiful community of listeners alive through the show’s partners and co-producers at Futuro Media,” host Alana Casanova-Burgess said.


“More Perfect,” which completed its fourth season this August, covered the U.S. Supreme Court and the effects of political polarization on its decisions. It won a Webby Award in 2018 for sound design, and made The New Yorker’s list of best podcasts in 2017.


“This was a tough choice. The decisions we’re announcing today aren’t a judgment call on the value of this work or the talent of these teams,” President and CEO LaFontaine Oliver said in the memo to staff. “But as your leader, I can’t deny that the ground has shifted beneath our feet, and even the largest commercial players in the podcasting space are readjusting to the changing financial realities of this platform.”


NYPR declined to publicly comment on the cuts.


In an email to staff on Sept. 26, Oliver said 12% of the staff would be cut, double the amount announced Thursday. He attributed the change in course to recent negotiations with SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents hosts and reporters, among others.


The union had also circulated a petition, urging listeners to sign and support the union in its talks with management.


“We are devastated by the loss of jobs, including good union jobs, at New York Public Radio,” SAG-AFTRA Stewards at NYPR said in a statement. “We are thankful that half as many jobs were eliminated as forecasted, and we appreciate the company’s acknowledgement of SAG-AFTRA’S positive role during this time.”


The organization, which now employs 317 full-time employees, reached an all-time high in membership between 2020 and 2021, according to company spokesperson Jennifer Houlihan Roussel. But that has since dipped.


She added that sponsorship fell from $23 million in fiscal year 2022 to $16.2 million in fiscal year 2023. In his September email, Oliver said layoffs were due to a “freefall” in the advertising market.


In the year preceding the layoffs, the company had instituted other cost-cutting measures including a freeze on hiring and the suspension of promotions and senior leadership bonuses. The majority of open positions have also been eliminated.


“We remain concerned about how this process played out,” the SAG-AFTRA Stewards at NYPR said.


Disclosure: This story was independently reported and written by freelance reporter Veronica Irwin. It was not reviewed by any NYPR executive prior to publication.


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