New York Times Staffers Express ‘Profound Dismay’ With Management

December 28, 2011   ·   1 Comments

Source: Huffington Post

Outgoing New York Times CEO Janet Robinson and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

By Michael Calderone:

New York Times staffers unhappy with management are letting publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. know it. In recent days, more than 270 current and former Times employees have signed an open letter expressing their “profound dismay” with recent company decisions.

Bill O’Meara, president of the New York Newspaper Guild, said some staffers had considered even “more dramatic” actions.

“There were people who wanted to storm Arthur Sulzberger’s office,” O’Meara told The Huffington Post. “There were people who wanted to stage a walkout.”

For now, Times staffers opted for the letter, which was composed in the newsroom and posted online by the guild at Since last week, hundreds of current staffers — from metro reporters to foreign correspondents, arts critics to web producers — and several Times alumni have continued adding their names.

The letter calls attention to several grievances. Last week, Times brass notified foreign citizens employed in the paper’s overseas bureaus that their pensions would be frozen. In the letter, Times staffers dismayed by this decision point out to Sulzberger that some of these foreign employees, working alongside Times reporters in war zones, have “risked their lives so that we can do our jobs.”

The open letter may have been prompted by this and other recent decisions, but it brought to the surface long-simmering tensions. In the past several years, staffers have faced temporary pay cuts, layoffs, and buyouts. They have worked since March without a new contract. Regarding ongoing negotiations, the letter notes that Sulzberger’s “negotiators have demanded a freeze of our pension plan and an end to our independent health insurance.” O’Meara said staffers did not receive a raise this year.

Such compensation and benefit issues are playing out while the Times faces a problem with retention, as executive editor Jill Abramson acknowledged when she landed the paper’s highest-ranking masthead job last June. The Times, which could once keep high-profile reporters and editors from heading to rival newspapers based on the paper’s cachet alone, has recently faced increased competition for top talent from non-traditional outlets, such as Bloomberg News, ESPN, and The Huffington Post.

The letter also mentions that a member of “senior management” is now leaving with “a very generous severance and retirement package, including full pension benefits.” Indeed, outgoing CEO Janet Robinson – the unnamed executive– will reportedly take home a $15 million exit package, according to ReutersTimes staffers with stock options have seen the share price drop from over $35 at the beginning of Robinson’s tenure in 2003 to less than $8 at opening on Tuesday.

Times spokeswoman told The Huffington Post that the paper is “not commenting on the negotiations while they are ongoing but we continue to look forward to reaching agreement with the guild.”

O’Meara said he hopes to present the letter and signatures to Times management at the end of the week. The guild also plans to post comments from some of the Times staffers who signed the letter, after he obtains their permission. “Many people wrote powerful, moving comments,” he said. “We want to make sure they’re OK putting it out there.”

One such comment, O’Meara said, included pictures of Sultan M. Munadi and Khalid Hassan, twoTimes foreign employees killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively.


Readers Comments (1)

  1. Nobull says:

    I’m among the disfavored readers of the NYT, like Marie Burns, who now look to this forum to speak. Still, I am saddened by reading this article, basically an obituary for the paper that proclaimed itself ” all the news that’s fit to print, like it or not!”. NYT has always been battered by the famous wrong-wing screed: “NYT like the President is Nazi-Socialist.”
    Hard to duck when that kind of birdshot is coming at you. I have long believed that NYT will continue to lower its standards to better challenge its more virile competitors; NYT has decided not to maintain its standards.
    But we should mourn NYT’s passing as paper of record. At least they often told the truth. In the upcoming Race to the Journalistic Bottom that I fear is coming…it’s the faux news that will triuph since it best understands yellow journalism and how to capitalize on it. How will the NYT sell a new rather unpalatable product in a market based on tripe, hyperbole and rewritten history? Maybe the staff getting out of the Dodge City Times before high noon and into a smaller but more vibrant format are the fortunate survivors. For the average Times employee, they will be treated like waiters on the Titanic; like their life-long employer sold them to Bain Capitol, they were given a one-way bus ticket and then management sent in the clones.



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