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Wednesday, December 10, 2008


NPR Cuts 64 Staffers, Leaves 21 Posts Open As Endowment Investments Tank

Art by TJ Sullivan
Today was yet another bad day for journalism, especially in the Los Angeles studios of National Public Radio, which announced it was laying off 64 staffers companywide, and doing away with 21 open jobs that had yet to be filled.

Rumors about the possibility of a layoff had been circulating for about a week at NPR West in Culver City. Today much of what was feared came true as NPR West learned it was hit worst of all with more than half of the firings -- 34 postions, says LAist -- coming out of its ranks, including the cancellation of the programs Day to Day and News & Notes .

Dennis L. Haarsager, interim president and CEO of NPR, explained it this way in a memo [via LA Observed]:
The manageable $2 million budget deficit we projected in July for Fiscal Year 2009 has now risen to $23 million.

It is clear that this serious financial situation can’t be responsibly resolved through short-term or temporary cuts. Rather, we must take measures that provide long-term savings, and that preserve our effectiveness and our ability to generate vital income in the years ahead.
Why did it come to this? It's a combination of problems, including a $4 million drop in expected grants and contributions, as well as a decline in corporate sponsorships, according to The New York Times.

The NY Times story says: "... corporate sponsorships in particular have dropped precipitously, to a projected $33 million for the year instead of the $47 million budgeted, NPR executives said."

The Washington Post explains another source of public radio's pain — bad stock investments by the $230 endowment bequeathed to NPR by the late Joan Kroc, the widow of McDonald's mogul Ray Kroc.

From WaPo:
... NPR will receive no income from the Kroc gift this year because of declines in its investment value. Kroc's gift had spun off about $10 million in revenue for NPR last year, but legal restrictions required and NPR's investment advisors recommended suspending that revenue source as the gift's value declined. NPR said it will make up the lost revenue by dipping into its reserves this year.
— TJ Sullivan in LA
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