The New York Times plans to eliminate 100 newsroom jobs — about 8 percent of the total — by year’s end, offering buyouts to union and non-union employees, and resorting to layoffs if it cannot get enough people to leave voluntarily, the paper announced on Monday.
Richard Perez-Pena blogged about how the program mirrors one carried out in the spring of 2008, when the paper erased 100 positions in its newsroom, though other jobs were created, so the net reduction was smaller. That round of cuts included some layoffs of journalists — about 15 to 20, though The Times would not disclose the actual figure — which was the first time in memory that had happened.
The paper has made much deeper reductions in other, non-newsroom departments, where layoffs have occurred several times. But the advertising drop that has pummeled the industry has forced cuts in the news operation as well. The newsroom already has lowered its budgets for freelancers and trimmed other expenses, and employees took a 5 percent pay cut for most of this year.
Nearly all papers in the metropolitan region have been cutting their news operations for years, and some have fewer than half as many people in their newsrooms as they did in 2000.
The Times’s news department peaked at more than 1,330 employees before the last round of cuts. The current headcount is about 1,250; no other American newspaper has more than about 750.
The Times will mail buyout packages to the entire newsroom staff on Thursday. The employees have 45 days to decide whether to apply for the buyout. Under the Newspaper Guild contract that covers most newsroom employees, buyouts generally offer three weeks’ salary for each year of service.
In a note to the news staff, Bill Keller, the executive editor, wrote: “As before, if we do not reach 100 positions through buyouts, we will be forced to go to layoffs. I hope that won’t happen, but it might.”
“I won’t pretend that these staff cuts will not add to the burdens of journalists whose responsibilities have grown faster than their compensation,” he wrote, adding, “Like you, I yearn for the day when we can do our jobs without looking over our shoulders for economic thunderstorms.”
Times executives said this year that they did not anticipate the news staff shrinking in 2009, except through attrition, but that nothing was certain. In fact, the 5 percent pay cut was meant to forestall any staff reductions.