ABC News to close most physical bureaus, cut U.S. correspondents by half

As part of the deep cuts announced this week at ABC News, the network plans to eventually close all of its physical bureaus around the country except Washington and halve the number of its domestic correspondents.

ABC News President David Westin confirmed in an interview Friday that the network's ranks of bureau correspondents, which currently number several dozen, will be cut in half.

They will be replaced by 20 to 25 digital journalists, who will shoot and edit their own stories.

"We will have as many total journalists as we do now," he said.

Though the network will keep a minimal staff presence in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and Boston, it is looking to close its bricks-and-mortar bureaus there. (Because of leasing issues, some offices may remain open in the short term.)

The Washington bureau will remain open, but its size will be substantially reduced.

The mood was grim in Los Angeles, the largest bureau outside of Washington.

The 40-plus staffers were told that only a few producers will remain and only two correspondents will be assigned to cover the West, down from a total of six who work out of Dallas, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Many functions that had been done out of the bureau will be handled by a "logistics desk" in New York.

Demoralized employees, who did not want to be quoted by name for fear of losing their jobs, said the severity of the cuts will make it nearly impossible to swarm major stories such as the perennial wildfires in Southern California.

Westin said that the network would cope with the reduced manpower on breaking news stories by hiring freelance crews and relying on its expanded team of digital journalists, staffers who will be able to handle multiple tasks.

"I'm sure we will learn more as we go forward, but we have enough experience to be quite confident that we can not only maintain but in some cases enhance our editorial quality," he said.

"This is a really big change," Westin added. "Some people are going to embrace it and some people will believe it won't work. I respect both those groups of people. It's a question of who wants to work here in the way we're going to change the place. . . . I'm quite confident we will have enough people who are enthusiastic and up to the task."

matea.gold@latimes .com

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