The New York Times made its own sobering news Monday. Top editors announced the newspaper will cut an additional 100 jobs from its newsroom staff by the end of December, an echo of far larger cuts made among its peers.
The 100-job target represents an 8 percent cut in the size of the newsroom staff. It follows an earlier reduction of 100 jobs last year. That will leave a staff of about 1,150 journalists at the Times — still hundreds more than at its nearest newspaper competitor.
The paper plans to cut an unspecified number of jobs not directly related to the newsroom.
Executive Editor Bill Keller told employees that the Times hoped to accomplish the cuts through buyouts and would resort to layoffs only as a last resort.
But it's humbling for the Times, which cut pay earlier this year by 5 percent in an effort to avoid further loss of staff.
In his memo, Keller wrote that The New York Times Co. has attempted to shield the paper from what he called "the disabling cutbacks that have hit other newsrooms."
Other newspapers have suffered far greater drops in the size of their newsrooms in recent years. The Newark Star Ledger, for example, lost more than 40 percent in a single day.
This time, however, the Times could not avoid the twin effects of the flagging economy and larger woes of the newspaper industry.
Both union and nonunion workers took a 5 percent pay cut earlier this year as the newspaper tried to avoid cutting more jobs.
"I won't pretend that these staff cuts will not add to the burdens of journalists whose responsibilities have grown faster than their compensation," Keller wrote.
He said the newspaper is looking to reorganize the newsroom flow to minimize the impact of the latest cuts.
The Times already trimmed about 100 positions from its business operations this spring and plans cuts of 25 to 50 more. An additional 50 positions would take the newspaper's business operations down by about 3 percent to 1,800.
The Times has borrowed money at a steep rate from a Mexican billionaire, but the recession combined with the erosion of advertising revenue for print in the digital age has proved too much.
But the newspaper has so far avoided the deep newsroom cutbacks that have become a regular occurrence at America's big-city dailies.
Newspapers such as the Times have been seeing sharp declines in ad revenue from their printed editions, and Web advertising hasn't grown fast enough to make up the difference. Meanwhile, many readers are abandoning print subscriptions for free news online, forcing the Times and other newspapers to consider Web access fees.
Earlier this year, Times officials promised to reveal plans on how the company would charge online readers for access to articles on its popular Web site. But no announcement has occurred. Executives are still wrestling with how to do that without alienating too many readers.
American newsrooms shed some 5,900 jobs just last year, according to the American Society of News Editors. At the Times, both union and nonunion workers took a 5 percent pay cut this spring as the newspaper tried to avoid cutting more jobs.
All news staff — union and nonunion — will receive buyout offers Thursday and have 45 days to decide.
"They're really starting to cut into the newsroom now, which is unfortunate," Bill O'Meara, head of the New York Newspaper Guild, the newspaper's largest union, told The Associated Press. "We hope all this can be achieved on a voluntary basis."
Times management told the Guild in September that it was open to offering buyouts before layoffs. It also promised to restore union salaries at the end of December, though it has not extended the guarantee to nonunion workers.
O'Meara said the union would meet with the Times management on Tuesday to hash out details of the necessary paperwork for buyouts, but the basic terms are set by contract. He said union workers who take buyouts are entitled to as much as two years' pay depending on seniority, plus extended health care coverage.
Includes material from The Associated Press