Economy

New York Times To Cut 8% Of Newsroom Staff By End Of 2009

The New York Times will once again cut its newsroom staff, this time by 100 jobs by the end of the year. The newspaper will be offering its employees buyouts and if not enough of them take them, layoffs will ensue. It's another sign that the newspaper industry's downward spiral continues unabated.

According to NYT's Media Decoder blog:

New York Times building.

The New York Times announced it will cut 8 percent more of its newsroom staff by 2009's end. Frank Franklin II, File/AP Photo hide caption

itoggle caption Frank Franklin II, File/AP Photo

The New York Times plans to eliminate 100 newsroom jobs — about 8 percent of the total — by year's end, offering buyouts to union and non-union employees, and resorting to layoffs if it cannot get enough people to leave voluntarily, the paper announced on Monday.

The program mirrors one carried out in the spring of 2008, when the paper erased 100 positions in its newsroom, though other jobs were created, so the net reduction was smaller. That round of cuts included some layoffs of journalists — about 15 to 20, though The Times would not disclose the actual figure — which was the first time in memory that had happened.

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 freelancers and trimmed other expenses, and employees took a 5 percent pay cut for most of this year.

Nearly all papers in the metropolitan region have been cutting their news operations for years, and some have fewer than half as many people in their newsrooms as they did in 2000.

The Times's news department peaked at more than 1,330 employees before the last round of cuts. The current headcount is about 1,250; no other American newspaper has more than about 750.

Read on for the memo NYT executive editor Bill Keller sent to his staff, courtesy of the Observer.com:

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 stron

g.

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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