We know traditional news organizations across the United States are shrinking, but there is little data on what the journalists who leave a shrinking major newspaper do next. At the turn of the 21st century, the Los Angeles Times was one of the biggest newsrooms in the world; despite experiencing significant cutbacks over the 1990s, it still employed nearly 1,200 journalists. But the unpopular sale of the newspaper to the Chicago-based Tribune Publishing Company in 2000 marked the beginning of 18 years of rapid decline in the size of the newsroom. By 2005, the newsroom had already dropped to around 940 employees. That number fell to 580 before Tribune filed for bankruptcy in 2008, and to around 400 by 2018.
That year, between November 8 and 18, 114 LA Times alumni took an online survey distributed via two email listservs and a Facebook group. (108 respondents completed the full survey, while six skipped some questions.) Exactly half of respondents identified as women and the other half as men. Most respondents (91 percent) left the LA Times after 2000, with the years 2008 and 2015 posting the most departures. Of the respondents, 38 percent were laid off; 33 percent took a buyout; and 20 percent left to take a different job and 3 percent retired, some influenced by the cutbacks going on around them.
The seemingly simple question of “what former LA Times journalists do for work now” is actually immensely complicated. Of the 92 respondents who currently work, 64 percent reported
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