On Thursday night, New York Times media columnist Ben Smith reported on a "pretty dire email" from National Public Radio CEO John Lansing, and the news was dire indeed: The nonprofit media group is being forced to initiate big cost-cutting measures in the wake of a budget deficit that could reach $25 million through fiscal 2021, per the Hill. The Wall Street Journal reports that deficit could go as high as $40 million, per a memo Lansing sent to staff Wednesday. The cuts will mainly come from nixing travel, conferences, and promotions, as well as putting raises, bonuses, and hiring on hold. A "very tough marketplace" made worse by the coronavirus pandemic is causing sponsorship funds to dry up, and donations could be next as supporters nervously keep an eye on their own investments, Lansing noted.
The Journal notes NPR's "unique model," one that receives money from both the government-supported Corporation for Public Broadcasting, as well as via fees and dues from member stations. "Other news organizations ... need to return profits to investors. We don't," Lansing noted. "But we do need to survive financially, and ensure NPR can continue to serve stations and the public for the coming years, so all of our resources go toward public service." Lansing added that job cuts aren't expected at the moment, though he warns he doesn't have "a crystal ball" on what the future may hold. "It is our goal to avoid them as much as is reasonably possible," he said. "However ... I can't guarantee anything other than that is my intent." (Read more NPR stories.)