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CNN staffers are concerned about an impending reorganization or round of involuntary cost-cutting after more than 100 of their colleagues raised their hands to take a voluntary buyout that was described as a “separation program.”
“Everybody is bracing for a reorganization,” a longtime senior producer told The Hollywood Reporter. “There are all kinds of rumors about impending layoffs. Some think they will come this summer. Others say a big layoff won’t happen until after the election. All agree layoffs are coming, though.”
“We keep getting told no layoffs are pending,” another senior producer said. “But CNN routinely has layoffs, so I think everyone thinks it’s coming.”
A CNN spokesperson told THR on Tuesday that no layoffs are planned for the near future. She also said the company had not set a target for the number of employees it hoped would take the buyout offer.
Layoffs have long been expected at AT&T, which acquired CNN parent company Time Warner, and at HBO, which, like CNN, is part of the newly formed WarnerMedia entity and has also offered buyouts.
According to a third longtime senior producer, CNN employees first received notice of the buyout opportunity in late March. The offer was only sent to employees who have worked at the company for 10 years or more and are at least 55.
Employees were offered four weeks of pay for each year of service, capping out at two years of salary. The buyout terms were similar to previous offers at CNN, including a round in late 2014.
“I think a lot of these people just feel like this is the best it’s going to get…and they’re not going to get a buyout offer that’s better than this one,” the longtime senior producer said. “Once you turn it down, you can be let go with far less. It’s a bird-in-hand, essentially.”
Lists of employees who have accepted this year’s offer are circulating among CNN employees, and include executives (such as CNN International managing director Tony Maddox), several bureau chiefs, photojournalists and digital “wire” writers.
“The people taking the buyout represent a huge amount of institutional knowledge,” said a longtime senior producer who was not eligible. “This group also represents a large number of the last employees who remember Ted Turner walking the halls of CNN Center.”
Another producer described the buyout recipients as “the sort of bread-and-butter of the network…people who are just CNN legends.”
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