It’s a dreary day at the cable news channel as it files an undisclosed number of employees — I’m hearing at least 60 –into the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan to tell them that they’ve lost their jobs. The sports news unit has been disbanded, and some layoffs are tied to a decision to cut The Stream to two days a week from five. Most of the people being let go are officially freelancers, although the group includes many who had been working full time. The official word is that the company needed lots of people for the launch last year. Al Jazeera America President Kate OBrian says in a memo to staff: “Now it is time to set our sights on new goals, requiring different levels and areas of investment and resources. We have reached what I will call our steady-state level of operations and we are bringing our staffing levels into alignment with our long-range plan as per our original business case. As a result, certain parts of our organization will expand or contract and staff levels and resources will be recalibrated.” She says that, after the cuts, the operation will have “more than 800 staff around the country.” Still, some people there speculate that the channel will shift its focus toward documentary pieces instead of live reports. It has struggled to attract viewers. For example, an internal memo notes that on March 21 the channel averaged 10,871 households (equal to a 0.02 rating) and had 339,000 unique viewers for the total day, well above its Friday average of 261,000.
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