The New York Times-reeling with the rest of the newspaper industry as advertising dollars and readers shift to the web-has completed its first ever newsroom layoffs. Editor Bill Keller told staff this morning that the newspaper had completed the cull of about 100 reporters and editors it began earlier this year.
Most of the departures are voluntary buyouts: older employees were offered a financial incentive to retire early. But last month Keller announced that the newspaper was short of volunteers.
"While layoffs have become all too common across our industry, this is the first time the newsroom as a whole has confronted that blunt reality, and we approach it with a heavy heart," he said in the e-mail.
And it is understood that some of the departures being announced today are of the nature of "forced buyouts"-layoffs, in other words, though the newspaper won't make the distinction obvious in order to spare the feelings of the staff it is letting go.
On Metro, for instance, the Times has announced the departures of Tony Ramirez, Rich Jones, and Joe Fried-though managers are leaving vague the timing of their buyouts. One can assume that staff who took the buyout before the deadline of April 22 were willing casualties; but most of the names are only being made public now.
It's a pretty cunning way to fudge the job cuts-though the Times is a leaky organization, and the two casualty lists will emerge over the next few days. Names, speculation, gossip to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: here's the memo:
From: Bill Keller/NYT/NYTIMES
Date: Wed, 7 May 2008 07:21:47
To: [New York Times newsroom]
Subject: A Message to the Staff from Bill Keller
A little over two months ago, I told you that we would have to reduce staff within the newsroom by roughly 100 jobs given the difficult financial challenges facing our business and the deteriorating national economy.
Our hope, as you know, was that we could trim our payroll by encouraging enough volunteers to accept buyout offers. While the overwhelming majority of our reductions did indeed come from volunteers, we have been forced to resort to a relatively small numbers of layoffs to meet our assigned goal. (We are not going to discuss numbers or the details of the staff reduction, nor will we be releasing a list of names.) All of those who are leaving will do so with a financial cushion that should carry them to other endeavors or to retirement, but that will not eliminate their sense of loss, or ours.
These past few weeks have been difficult for all of us, as we say goodbye to many longtime colleagues who have elected to leave. Others, who raised their hands for buyouts more recently, will be departing in the coming weeks. A few of those who sought buyouts will stay on longer, to help us through the demands of a year when we must cover both the Olympics in China and a national election campaign. We've had farewell toasts, and will have more, for friends and colleagues whose knowledge and dedication we will miss. We know this time has been unsettling and dispiriting.
We hope that the worst is now behind us. As I told you when we met in
the Times Center in February, our plan from the outset was to move through this difficult process as quickly as possible so we do not spend a year bleeding from serial cuts.
There are, of course, no guarantees, but so far nothing in the company's performance or in the forecasts for the economy at large suggests we
will be going through this again anytime soon. Moreover, we remain in a far better position than most competitors, thanks to a large base of extremely loyal paid subscribers, a digital news operation that is outpacing our rivals in readership and revenue, and the backing of a family that sees our work as both a civic trust and a durable business.
Most important, we retain the strongest team of talented journalists in
the business, and they — you — remain the key to all of our ambitions.
Now it is time to regroup and move forward. In the coming weeks we
will be working with department heads to reorganize and reimagine our coverage to ensure the quality journalism that is our standard. When we met in the Times Center in February, I told you that we were facing two seemingly contradictory challenges in the coming year. On the one hand, we must reduce our staffing and costs. On the other hand, we must do whatever we can to strengthen our competitive position. As I said then, that will mean our staff cuts will be offset a little by some investments to ensure, among other things, that we are well equipped to navigate the passage to our digital future.
I want to thank each of you for your patience, your forbearance and your support during this extremely difficult period. Now more than ever
the newsroom needs you — your intelligence and creativity, your energy