This week brought the announcement from ABC News that it was making large cuts in its newsroom staff, with up to 400 positions expected to be eliminated.  That’s 25% of its staff.  This marks another blow to the  news business in terms of staffing.  But more importantly, it embraces a new reality: that long gone are the days of large news bureaus teeming with reporters.

Today’s news reporting requires proximity and flexibility, something that the old style news bureau was a little too clunky to provide.  Large, top down hierarchies with big editorial meetings and assignments handed down from on high are just not the reality in today’s ever-changing, fast-paced world of reporting.

In his memo, president of ABC News president David Westin describes what the reorganized ABC News will embrace:

  • Expanding use of digital journalists;
  • Backpack journalists who will shoot and edit their own pieces;
  • Combining weekend and weekday operations; and
  • Using a blend of staff and freelancers to respond to programming demands as needed

In other words, the new ABC News will be a modern newsroom with many staff filling multiple roles, simultaneously.

This is not to minimize the pain of the reporters who have been working hard, providing excellent coverage of stories as they break, who have now suddenly find themselves out of a job.  But rather to underscore that journalism is undergoing a substantial and permanent shift in the way it’s done.  With its announcement this week, ABC is in recognition of that fact and will hopefully now move forward as a lean journalistic organization ready to report in the 21st century.


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