Earlier this afternoon, the Times newsroom staff met to hear some bad news: One hundred positions will be cut by the end of the year. The downsizing, according to a staff memo sent out by executive editor Bill Keller, will be mirrored by cuts in the editorial pages and on the business side — but no specifics on that end have yet been announced. They’ll try to achieve the newsroom reduction — which will total about 8 percent of their 1,250-person staff — will be achieved as much as possible through buyouts. Every reporter and editor (who were, according to the Observer, “totally caught off guard” by the announcement) will receive an offer on Thursday of this week, according to the memo.
Keller stressed that “getting a buyout package does NOT mean we want you to leave” (nobody, it turns out, wants a newsroom of zero). But here was the most interesting part of the (otherwise depressing) memo:
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.
The Sulzbergers are grateful to the newsroom staff, you see, and the staff should (as always) be grateful to them! But we hear that, predictably, mutual love isn’t exactly the feeling running around the newsroom today, especially since publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. didn’t mention the imminent cuts at his annual “State of the Times” meeting on September 30. In fact, he was downright optimistic about the paper’s revenue in the near future — even claiming that the temporary 5 percent pay cut the staff took to avoid layoffs would be rescinded at the start of next year. “A lot of people were grumbling today about the incongruity between Arthur’s comments and the news today,” a source told Intel. “Did they seriously just decide this in the last three weeks?”
According to the Times, yes, they did. When asked whether Sulzberger knew about the need for a potential cut at the time of the optimistic company-wide address, spokeswoman Diane McNulty e-mailed only that “the decision came later.” Must have been a rough three weeks.