What the New York Times Lost in the Buyout

The New York Times buyouts are done, leaving only a round of layoffs to get up to 100 staff cuts before the year's end. In January, the paper will be a different place. A look at what was lost, below.

The New York Times needed to cut its staff. Its newsroom staff is too big for the paper to survive for the long term. And with a newsroom that large, there is inevitably dead weight. Still, every person that leaves is something lost for the paper.

Metro Section: It was bloated, with 50 reporters but no standalone section in the paper. Buyout takers from the section were Ralph Blumenthal, Nicole Collins, Paul Nielsen, Tina Kelley and Jenny 8. Lee, who was the biggest individual brand name to take the (meager) money and run. With such a relatively modest news hole, it's doubtful that the departures will be very visible in the print product; the question is whether the NYT can keep its City Room blog (which Lee had a hand in) as excellent as it's been. It could soon become more important than the print Metro section, in terms of influence. Other, smaller blogs by Metro staffers could well get cut in the NYT blog purge, so they're not as much of a worry.(The same goes for every other section, of course).

Business: It was also big, with 85 staffers, but more justifiably so. But they lost some serious quality reporters. Buyout takers include Louis Uchitelle, Alex Berenson, Jonathan Glater, Leslie Wayne, Edmund Andrews, and Geraldine Fabrikant. Andrews and Fabrikant would probably be considered the two biggest names leaving.

Sports: They lost Jack Curry, a big name, and Giants reporter Joe Lapointe. The sports section is expected to get hit hard in the round of layoffs, mostly because the connection between the NYT and the very concept of "sports" has always been tenuous. Although it's a very good section! It will survive.

DC: Stephen Labaton, Neil Lewis, David Johnston, and David Stout are all leaving. Also, the Business desk in DC has been rather decimated, we hear. The paper will have to staff back up. Between pressure from the WSJ on a national scale, and the increased DC focus of the weakened Washington Post, and Politico, the Times can't afford to lose any ground in its DC coverage.

More broadly, these buyouts signal the end of the classic New York Times culture. The paper used to be a job for life, with tenure as strong as the most bureaucratic college and a bureaucracy as entrenched as The Pentagon's. Those days, by necessity, are ending for good. Slowly, NYT employees are being forced to show and prove to justify their own paychecks. Just like employees of normal media outlets!

A year from now, many more newsroom employees will be gone. And things will be tighter at the NYT. For better or worse, they're going to lose some flab. And a fair amount of mystique.

[Special shout out to the many departing members of the NYT copy desk. Copy editors will soon be a luxury remembered wistfully.]