Reuters digital journalists worried after company slashes website support staff

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FILE: Thomson Reuters’ global headquarters in Times Square, New York City (The Desk)

Journalists for Reuters are worried their jobs may be on the chopping block next year after the company recently moved to eliminate many positions from its technical support staff for Reuters.com.

Earlier this month, Reuters announced it would eliminate more than 3,200 jobs by the year 2020, amounting to a workforce reduction of about 12 percent. On December 4, the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune newspaper said some of those cuts were already starting to take place in nearby Eagan, where the Canadian-based company has a sprawling campus.

It was not immediately clear how many of those based in Eagan, where Thomson Reuters employed 6,000 workers, were affected by the layoffs, but a company spokesperson told the newspaper that affected employees had been notified.

Last week, insider publication The Baron reported additional cuts to the technical staff providing support for Reuters.com, the company’s flagship consumer-facing news product that serves as a pseudo-window shop for the Reuters news wire. An anonymous source inside the company alleged most of the support staff in the United States and China would be let go, according to the news site.

The layoffs impact quality assurance and technical support staffers who test new products and fix bugs on the main Reuters.com website and more than a dozen regional and alternate language web portals, The Baron said.

Some staffers who produce content specific for Reuters.com, including the company’s flagship video product Reuters TV, now worry their jobs are also on the line.

“There’s a feeling around here that nobody is really safe,” one staff member told The Desk under a request for anonymity over concerns for their job. “I look around the floor and I think to myself, are any of these people going to be my co-worker in a few weeks or months? Do I need to start looking for another job?”

Turnover among staff associated with Reuters.com products has been unusually high over the last several years.

“When someone is hired, we all get a note, and sometimes I wonder how long they’re going to last,” the staff member said. “The revolving door doesn’t stop spinning. We’re losing people all the time.”

The news revived feelings for some of a time when Reuters.com appeared ready and willing to take risks on what the company considered to be the next big thing — the newly-relaunched window shop site appropriately named “Reuters Next.” But missed deadlines and requests for larger budgets meant the website never moved past the critical beta phase — it was shuttered in 2013 and many of the workers hired to oversee the project were laid off.

Less than a month after Reuters canceled Reuters Next, layoff notices went out to about 5 percent of its workforce.