According to sources with knowledge of the situation, the layoffs have been widespread. The Moscow bureau has lost two reporters, reducing the size of the office—a particularly key outpost in the context of the ongoing revelations since the campaign about Russia and Trump—to just a small handful of staff. The Warsaw bureau lost one of its two reporters, and the Budapest bureau has been shut down, as has the bureau in Madrid. The one-man Riyadh bureau has also been closed. The paper’s operation in India has lost two reporters, according to a source with knowledge of the reduction. All staff in Scandinavia have been laid off except for one. The Berlin bureau is said to have been reduced by one. (Some of these layoffs were previously reported by Bloomberg and Politico.) The layoffs largely occurred in a wave on January 31.
There’s “nobody left between Stockholm and Greece, and between Berlin and Moscow there is nobody” except for the remaining reporter in Warsaw, said a former reporter in one of the European bureaus who was laid off in the latest round.
That particular reporter was not surprised at the layoffs: “The writing has been on the wall for such a long time. I’ve been anticipating this for many months, not weeks, months. If not years actually.”
But others were blindsided. According to one former reporter in an Eastern European bureau who was laid off in the latest wave, reporters in one of the bureaus in Europe were assured by their bureau chief after a wave of Journal layoffs in November that their jobs would not be affected.
Additionally, there was scant information shared internally in the company about the layoffs.
“Absolutely nothing,” the former reporter from the Eastern European bureau said. “All whispering between people who’d been laid off and other people.”
On the day of the layoffs, January 31, Baker’s daily email newsletter The 10-Point began with an item on Trump’s firing of then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. It was titled “You’re Fired.”
On February 3, Baker sent out a memo to staff about the progress of the WSJ 2020 initiative, an ongoing cost-cutting review and reorganization effort, but didn’t directly mention the layoffs.
“But with our business model changing quickly as print advertising recedes, and reader habits and technology undergoing major shifts, we have to do more to rethink our business model and newsroom structure, to become more creative with new products and storytelling techniques, and to better serve our consumer and professional readers,” Baker wrote.
Baker referred to newsroom concerns about career paths and referenced recruitment efforts:
“We have heard from many of you that we have work to do here, starting with clarifying our job categories and expectations ((and growth)) and career paths for our journalists,” he wrote. “As part of that we want to beef up training to account for the ever-changing array of technologies, tools and specialties that are central to journalism today. We will seek plenty of input on how we can better help all of you develop.”