Owner: New York Times Co.
Date: Feb. 14, 2008
The Times will cut 100 newsroom positions “by not filling jobs that go vacant, by offering buyouts, and if necessary by layoffs,” said executive editor Bill Keller. UPDATE: Layoffs will be coming to the Times, but no numbers have been offered yet.
Source: New York Times and The New York Observer
New York Times Plans to Cut 100 Newsroom Jobs
By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
Published: February 14, 2008
After years of resisting the newsroom cuts that have hit most of the industry, The New York Times will bow to growing financial strain and eliminate about 100 newsroom jobs this year, the executive editor said Thursday.
The cuts will be achieved by “by not filling jobs that go vacant, by offering buyouts, and if necessary by layoffs,” said the executive editor, Bill Keller. The more people who accept buyouts, he said, “the smaller the prospect of layoffs, but we should brace ourselves for the likelihood that there will be some layoffs.”
The Times has 1,332 newsroom employees, the largest number in its history; no other American newspaper has more than about 900. There were scattered buyouts and job eliminations in The Times’ newsroom in recent years, but the overall number continued to rise, largely because of the growth of its Internet operations.
Shares in The New York Times Company rose almost 5 percent Thursday after the newsroom staff reductions were reported, closing at $18.84, up 86 cents.
The Times Company has made significant cuts in the newsrooms of some of its other properties, including The Boston Globe, as well as in non-news operations. Company executives say the overall head count is 3.8 percent lower than it was a year ago.
But with the industry’s economic picture worsening, the company is under increased pressure from shareholders — notably two hedge funds that recently bought almost 10 percent of the common stock — to do something dramatic to improve its bottom line.
For 2007, it recently reported earnings of $209 million on revenue of $3.2 billion.
Newspaper industry ad revenue fell about 7 percent last year, and 4.7 percent at The Times Company, and executives around the industry have projected that 2008 will be equally bad.
Other large newspapers have made much bigger cuts, proportionally, than those The Times is planning; some newsrooms are more than 20 percent smaller than they were early in this decade.
Even so, eliminating jobs has grown harder “because the low-hanging fruit is gone, and so is some of the higher-hanging fruit,” Mr. Keller said. And he suggested that the cuts could not help but affect the newspaper’s journalism.
“To meet our budget goals, we will have to do a little less, and every time we do less, we cede a bit of advantage,” he said. “Our challenge will be to set our priorities in such a way that we do less in the areas that damage our competitiveness least.”
The Times has a newsroom budget of more than $200 million. It is one of a very few news organizations that have not reduced their coverage of Iraq, which costs about $3 million a year, and expenses have also been increased by an unusually long and competitive presidential campaign.
The Times also faces increased competition from The Wall Street Journal, which was acquired in December by the News Corporation. With Rupert Murdoch, the News Corporation’s chairman, calling for The Journal to become an alternative to The Times, The Journal is stepping up its coverage of politics and government.
The Journal has about 750 newsroom personnel, a figure that does not include some of the support staff that most newspapers include in the tally. That is the largest the number has ever been, and News Corporation executives have said they expect it to grow.
The Los Angeles Times has fewer than 900 newsroom employees, down from about 1,200 early in this decade. The Washington Post has about 800, down from a peak of about 900.
Times: ‘We Expect’ Layoffs
by John Koblin | April 15, 2008
The New York Times announced that it’s all but a done deal that the paper will have to layoff staffers in the newsroom.
The drop-dead deadline is fast approaching for the staffers in The New York Times newsroom to raise their hand and volunteer for a buyout. An internal memo from the paper’s assistant managing editor, Bill Schmidt, just went out and said that “we expect” that the buyout numbers aren’t looking good and that for the first time the paper will be forced to cut the newsroom through layoffs.
“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.
The entire memo is below:
To the staff
About six weeks ago Bill Keller announced that the newsroom would need to reduce its head count by about 100 jobs, as a result of the worsening financial picture facing this newspaper and the rest of our industry. To that end, we put on the table a round of buyouts, and began seeking volunteers among both our Guild and excluded employees.
The window for those voluntary buyouts closes officially next week — on Monday, April 21, for excluded members of the staff, and on that day and the next (Tuesday, April 22), for Guild applicants.
While we will not know the hard count until that time, every effort to handicap the outcome suggests that we are almost certain to fall short of the number of volunteers we will need. If that is indeed the case, as we expect it will be, we will — regrettably — be forced resort to some limited number of layoffs within the core newsroom.
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. Even as people and jobs go away, the reductions will have a continuing impact across the newsroom, as we regroup and reorganize departments and even juggle some assignments to ensure we are able to continue to produce the kind of quality journalism that is our hallmark.
I wish I could offer some clearer sense of scale. An effort by the Guild to predict the outcome a few weeks back, based on what they knew from the people who had asked to get a buyout package, concluded it was too soon to tell if there would be enough volunteers, across the staff. Their own estimate, at that time, fell short of the mark, and the basic calculus has not changed.
Because the voluntary buyout window is still open for a few more days, and because we know many of you might still be contemplating what to do, we urge you to give the offer serious consideration, if you believe there is some financial advantage in it for you and your family. Each buyout we record before next Tuesday reduces the number of layoffs we will have to seek.
If any of you have any questions, or seek further information in the coming days, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.