Norway’s national union of journalists (Norsk Journalistlag, NJ) is calling it “the worst media crisis of all time.” In another wave of staff cuts announced in recent weeks, Norwegian media firms claim they collectively need to slash costs by more than NOK 1 billion, meaning that many more jobs will disappear.
Norwegian newspapers had been chipping away at their staff levels for years until the media crisis first hit hard in 2008. That led to a wave of restructuring and staff cuts mostly through attrition and severance packages. Now many papers are faced with layoffs, also at the small local papers around the country that had been doing relatively well in their niche.
Now newspapers like Østlands-Posten have to cut seven of just 34 jobs in the newsroom. Major cuts are also demanded at newspapers in the Amedia, Schibsted, Aller, Polaris and Mentor Medier media companies. Schibsted’s Aftenposten, still ranked as the largest paper in the country, is encouraging more editorial staff members to accept severance packages, while layoffs loom at Dagbladet.
“Journalists and journalism are threatened and under pressure from many sides, from media without journalistic content, owners’ demands for profits … and an arrogant PR branch,” NJ leader Thomas Spence, a veteran reporter at Aftenposten, wrote to NJ members on Tuesday. News operations, especially newspapers, continue to be threatened by a decline in advertising and subscription revenue, and an ongoing unwillingness by readers to pay for online content. The result means huge cuts in the resources needed to gather news and present it.
While Norwegian media fended off the crisis long after it hit hard in other countries, their ability to do so now is greatly reduced. Erik Wilberg, an assistant professor at Norwegian Business School BI said the situation for newspapers in Norway is more serious than ever.
“They now face an exceptionally difficult reorganization,” Wilberg told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Tuesday. “We’re talking about companies selling knowledge that have to try to stay competitive.” When they have to cut staff as they do now, he said, the situation is desperate and likely to radically change the character and coverage of whatever newspapers and their websites remain.