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LA Times, San Diego Union-Tribune lost 'north of $50 million' in 2020 revenue: report

LA Times, San Diego Union-Tribune lost 'north of $50 million' in 2020 revenue: report
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The Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune lost “north of $50 million” of revenue in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, company executives told staff on Thursday, The Wrap reported Thursday.

Executives at the newspapers’ California Times parent company told staff that most of the revenue losses were from print advertising, but noted that digital advertising and print circulation also took hits. 

California Times President Chris Argentieri said the loss was a “catastrophic drop in revenue for the company north of $50 million on top of a business that was already using cash and not producing cash,” the Wrap reported, citing a recording of the meeting. 

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“What we saw in 2020, was [an] acceleration of trends that we were well aware of and have been aware of, really, for far more than a decade,” Argentieri said. “We won’t go back, particularly in print advertising, to where we were.”

At the meeting, Nancy Antoniou, the chief human resources officer for both newspapers, said the company was able to make it through COVID-19’s economic toll “far better” after making several sacrifices. 

The Times declined to comment to The Hill on its internal meeting. 

Amid the pandemic, the California Times had to sell three community newspapers that closed last April and lay off business operations staff. But the company hired 163 employees last year, Antoniou said during the meeting.

The Times reported earlier this week that it received a $10 million Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan for staff-related expenses after a loss in ad revenue during the pandemic. 

Argentieri told a Times reporter that the PPP loan will be used “almost exclusively for employee-related costs, including payroll and employee benefits” after the pandemic “dealt a significant financial blow last March.”

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“We lost tens of millions of dollars in advertising revenue pretty much instantly in March 2020, and the pandemic continues to take a toll on the public health and take a toll economically,” Argentieri said in the report. “We are still operating with great uncertainty.” 

Patrick Soon-Shiong, who bought the two newspapers with his wife in 2018, dismissed a Wall Street Journal report from February that he was considering selling the papers as “inaccurate.” 

A Journal spokesperson said in response that the paper was standing by its story and was “confident in our reporting.”