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Staffers at NBC News are bracing for layoffs

Times Staff Writer

NBC News employees are bracing this week as the network news division undergoes a pre-Thanksgiving round of layoffs, part of a corporate-wide restructuring announced last month.

In the first phase of job cuts at the network news division, about 40 employees are expected to be given pink slips by Wednesday.

The newsmagazine “Dateline” -- which has one of the largest staffs with more than 150 employees -- is slated to field the most cuts, but staffers are also being laid off from morning powerhouse “Today” and, to a lesser extent, the top-ranked “NBC Nightly News.”

“I don’t think it’s about proportionate cuts at each show, but rather what can be cut without damaging the product,” said one network executive who did not want to be named discussing internal matters.

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In all, NBC’s 6,000-person news operation -- which includes cable channels MSNBC and CNBC, 10 network-owned affiliates and Spanish-language network Telemundo -- is expected to shrink by about 400 positions over two years, according to network sources.

NBC News officials said the majority of this year’s staff reductions were being achieved through voluntary buyouts.

“While conversations like this can always be very difficult, it was made easier by the fact that we had more volunteers than we expected,” NBC News spokeswoman Allison Gollust said.

The cuts are part of a broader initiative called NBCU 2.0 announced last month by NBC Universal, which aims to save $750 million over two years by eliminating 700 jobs company-wide and producing less-expensive prime-time programming.

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NBC News President Steve Capus said last month that a large share of the cuts would be accomplished by eliminating redundancies throughout the news division, such as separate graphics and booking departments for each show.

Last week, the first notices were issued to “Dateline” staffers, including Chicago-based correspondents Rob Stafford and Edie Magnus, both 10-year NBC veterans. Employees at “Today” and “NBC Nightly News” who are losing their jobs should be informed by midweek because executives want to get through the layoffs before the holiday season.

As part of the cost-cutting, MSNBC’s New Jersey office will be shuttered and its employees relocated, most to a new central newsroom that will be built on the third floor of NBC’s Rockefeller Center. The move isn’t expected to be complete until mid- to late 2007.

In an interview published Monday in trade magazine Broadcasting & Cable, “Today” co-anchor Matt Lauer said that although he did not believe that the cuts would hurt the morning show, the layoffs had triggered some anxiety.

“I would be lying if I told you there isn’t a little bit of uncertainty around here,” Lauer told the magazine. “Are there people here who are looking over their shoulder a little bit? Absolutely. Is there a certain amount of redundancy in the news division? Absolutely, some of it can go. We are dealing with reality. In the past, in some ways, we dealt a little with fantasy. Now reality is setting in, and there will have to be some hard decisions made.”

matea.gold@latimes.com

Times staff writer Meg James contributed to this report.


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