During the same week Seattle Times staffers are finding out who in their newsroom will be laid off, five journalists at the Seattle-based environmental website Grist lost their jobs.
Several Grist staff writers said on Twitter Monday that they had been laid off. The site's editor, Scott Dodd, confirmed to The Stranger that five staffers were laid off—four writers and one developer. Those cuts leave just one other full-time writer as well as seven editors, three fellows (who work six-month terms), and one intern, according to the site's masthead. (The editorial department also has a video producer and "director of fellowship and creative projects.")
"The layoffs were for financial and strategic reasons," Dodd said by email. "They were unfortunate and painful but necessary for the financial health of the organization."
Grist writers Katie Herzog, Aura Bogado, a woman of color who focused on environmental justice, and Heather Smith said on Twitter they had been laid off. The three, along with staff writer Ben Adler, no longer appear on the site's masthead.
In an email, Grist founder Chip Giller told The Stranger the layoffs are part of a shift in coverage toward stories focused on "sustainable solutions."
Grist is shifting focus toward coverage of sustainable solutions and will do more to guide our readers on how to get involved and make a difference. We believe this shift is necessary, especially during the new era of the Trump administration. To make this change — and to ensure that we're spending our resources most wisely — we made the difficult business decision to lay off several staff. Moving forward, we'll be building a new Grist and featuring on-the-ground reporting from writers across the country.
It's hard to tell what any of those buzzwords really mean, but the statement could indicate two things:
First, the site may focus less on in-depth environmental justice reporting in favor of more how-to pieces.
Second, Grist will likely rely more on freelancers ("on the ground reporting from writers across the country"). That's often a strategy for media outlets looking to save money, since they don't have to offer freelancers benefits like health insurance. When the Seattle Weekly laid off six people in 2015, publisher Bob Baranski said the paper intended to use more freelancers.
The layoffs come after a rash of other cuts in local media. The Seattle Times announced significant buyouts, layoffs, and restructuring late last year. In December, NBC shut down its Seattle-based startup, Breaking News. And this month, KOMO cut its investigative reporting team and Northwest Cable News went dark.