Mood in New York Times Newsroom Is ‘Poisonous’ as Buyouts Loom
While digital subscriptions rise, staff faces another round of cuts.
The New York Times has always been the news organization that journalists strive to join.
But recent reports from those working at the paper are grim, according to Vanity Fair. In a new profile of the New York Times, the magazine quotes one editor who said, “The mood at the paper is poisonous in a way I’ve never seen it in the past 15 years.”
Why does one of the world’s most recognized news organizations have so much turmoil?
A big reason is buyouts. The Time is undergoing yet another round of buyouts, set to be finalized on Thursday. The copy desk is being eliminated as a freestanding entity. Though a small number of copy editors will be absorbed into other sections, they were told to re-apply for jobs. Those who didn’t make the cut were encouraged to apply for buyout packages.
The Times overall is going through massive restructuring, including the physical office. It is going from 20 floors to 12, freeing up leasing space. Only eight editors will have private offices, and more people will be on each floor in an open floor plan.
A journalist who has worked at The Times for decades explained to Vanity Fair that the paper has never done buyouts as part of a huge restructuring. “It’s a significant moment,” they said to VF.
Buyouts have happened at The Times before, but this time, the buyouts have targeted a loyal underclass of newsroom employees, who many see as the “staunchest defenders of the Times’s rigorous standards.”
Previously, each story got two-and-a-half edits, and now with the new model, each story will get one-and-a-half edits. There will be more emphasis on a story’s digital presentation as opposed to its placement in the print edition.
The NewsGuild, the union that represents many Times journalists, launched a PR campaign in response to the buyouts. On June 29, hundreds of staffers walked out of the newsroom in a show of solidarity. The copy editors wrote a brutal letter to executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joe Kahn.
Many people at the Times criticized the internal messaging and communications during the buyouts, telling VF that it felt “cold.” Copy editors felt demoralized when they had to re-apply for positions, only to be told during a second interview that there was no place for them.
There are some, of course, who believe that the restructuring is good. Some Times journalists told Vanity Fair that these steps are reasonable and progressive, and that the changes will actually be an improvement.
While all this is happening, a generational change is looming at the Times. Insiders say publisher Arthur Sulzerger Jr., 65, will pass the baton to his 36-year-old son A.G. Sulzberger, who has been groomed for this job for years, soon.
The Times says that the buyouts will help save money that will be used to create 100 new positions for reporters and visual journalists. Investigative reporters will be a priority, according to Vanity Fair. On Monday, 70 or the 91 buyout applications that were submitted had been approved by management, reports NewsGuild, and 64 of the 109 copy editors had been offered new positions.
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