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Memo: Times To Layoff 100 Newsroom Staffers

nyt logo.jpgThe announcement that The New York Times is planning to cut 100 newsroom jobs by the end of the year is big news for the media industry, but it couldn’t have been a very easy story for Times reporter Richard Perez-Pena to write.

Perez-Pena reports on the paper’s Media Decoder blog that the Times will cut about 8 percent of its total newsroom jobs by “offering buyouts to union and non-union employees, and resorting to layoffs if it cannot get enough people to leave voluntarily.”

The announcement about the cuts, which had been discussed since September, came to staffers through a memo from executive editor Bill Keller. (Keller had to send a memo because he has the flu. It seems to be going around.) Explains the memo:

“On Thursday, the Company will be sending buyout offers to everyone in the newsroom. Getting a buyout package does NOT mean we want you to leave. It is simply easier to send the envelopes to everyone. If you think a buyout may be right for you, you have up to 45 days to decide whether you will accept it or not.

As before, if we do not reach 100 positions through buyouts, we will
be forced to go to layoffs. I hope that won’t happen, but it might.

Our colleagues in editorial and op-ed, and on the business side, also
face another round of budget cuts.”

This plan is similar to one enacted in 2008, when 100 newsroom positions were eliminated. About that round of cuts, Perez-Pena said only 15 to 20 journalists lost their jobs, “which was the first time in memory that had happened.” And there have been other layoffs:

“The paper has made much deeper reductions in other, non-newsroom departments, where layoffs have occurred several times. But the advertising drop that has pummeled the industry has forced cuts in the news operation, as well. The newsroom already has lowered its budgets for free-lancers and trimmed other expenses, and employees took a 5 percent pay cut for most of this year.”

In his memo, Keller rightly noted that no one is really surprised by this move. “But it is happening sooner than anyone anticipated,” he said. “When we took our 5 percent pay cuts, it was in the hope that this would fend off the need for more staff cuts this year. But I accept that if it’s going to happen, it should be done quickly. We will get through this and move on.”

Keller’s full memo, after the jump


Colleagues,

I had planned to invite you to the newsroom and break this news in person today, but I’ve been hit by something that seems to be the flu. Though I strongly believe in delivering bad news in person, I don’t want to add insult to injury by spreading infection.

Let me cut to the chase: We have been told to reduce the newsroom by 100 positions between now and the end of the year.

We hope to accomplish this by offering voluntary buyouts. On Thursday, the Company will be sending buyout offers to everyone in the newsroom.
Getting a buyout package does NOT mean we want you to leave. It is simply easier to send the envelopes to everyone. If you think a buyout may be right for you, you have up to 45 days to decide whether you will accept it or not.

As before, if we do not reach 100 positions through buyouts, we will be forced to go to layoffs. I hope that won’t happen, but it might.

Our colleagues in editorial and op-ed, and on the business side, also face another round of budget cuts.

In recent years, we’ve managed to avoid the disabling cutbacks that have hit other newsrooms. The Company has chosen to protect the journalism by cutting production and other business-side costs, and the newsroom itself has managed its resources frugally. These latest cuts will still leave us with the largest, strongest and most ambitious editorial staff of any newsroom in the country, if not the world.

I won’t pretend that these staff cuts will not add to the burdens of journalists whose responsibilities have grown faster than their compensation. But we’ve been looking hard at ways to minimize the impact — in part, by re-engineering some of our copy flow. I won’t promise this will be easy or painless, but I believe we can weather these cuts without seriously compromising our commitment to coverage of the region, the country and the world. We will remain the single best news organization on earth.

I doubt that anyone is shocked by the fact of this, but it is happening sooner than anyone anticipated. When we took our 5 percent pay cuts, it was in the hope that this would fend off the need for more staff cuts this year. But I accept that if it’s going to happen, it should be done quickly. We will get through this and move on.

In my absence, Bill Schmidt and John and Jill have volunteered to take your questions this afternoon. Feel free to bring additional questions to me as soon as I’m back, or check with Bill Schmidt or John or Jill privately, or save them for the next Throw Stuff at Bill session, which is in a couple of weeks.

We often — and rightly — voice our gratitude that we work for a company and a family that prize quality journalism above all. I hope you know that the company and the family, and I, feel an equal debt of gratitude to all of you whose sacrifice and loyalty have kept us strong.

Like you, I yearn for the day when we can do our jobs without looking over our shoulders for economic thunderstorms.

Bill

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