In Depth

Layoffs, Restructurings Hit CBS O&Os, CBS News

The first quarter of 2008 ended with separately directed layoffs and restructurings at CBS News and in the news operations at several CBS-owned stations.

People familiar with the stations’ situations said there will be some local operations that do not make any cuts, and there were no across-the-board cutback targets handed down.

The axes seemed to swing widest and cut deepest at WBBM-TV in Chicago, where a handful of on-air talent is among the 15 to 20 casualties reported. At Boston’s WBZ-TV, the job losses were expected to be in the low 20s, while at KPIX-TV in San Francisco, the cuts are thought to be in the mid-teens. At KCNC-TV in Denver, the number of jobs lost also may be in the mid-teens.

A Sunday-night sports show and two reporters are among the known casualties at flagship station WCBS-TV in New York. At KOVR-TV in Sacramento, two reporters are out and two weekend sportscasts are being cut back. No on-air personnel are thought to be affected by cuts at KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh.

Attrition will be used to trim some of the payrolls, said a spokesman for the CBS-owned stations group.

The cutbacks at CBS News are expected to result in a loss of less than 2% of the division’s jobs.

In a move long discussed and not directly related to ordered cutbacks, CBS News is shutting its nominal bureau in Paris. That move is one that has been under discussion for a number of years. The proximity of the Paris bureau, which in recent years has not had a correspondent regularly assigned to it, to the larger London bureau was among the deciding factors.

“Like many, if not most, other news organizations, we are looking at moves that take into account changes in technology, changes in newsgathering and figuring out how best to utilize the staff,” said a CBS News spokeswoman. “Some open jobs are not going to be filled, some jobs are being redefined or reconfigured, some are being lost and some are going to be added.”

Sources familiar with the stations’ strategies said the cuts were a result of more efficient technologies and updated facilities as well as the recessionary atmosphere forcing cutbacks in many sectors of the U.S. economy.