New York Times Signals More Newsroom Layoffs Are Imminent

An email sent to staff Thursday also details the end of certain perks.

Ole Spata/DPA/ZUMA

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The New York Times indicated today that it’s getting close to a round of forced layoffs of its journalists.

The newsroom-wide email sent Thursday morning, obtained by Mother Jones, details responses to employee questions about a scheduled buyout program from Janet Elder, a deputy executive editor at the company. The email states that, “the most frequently asked question is about scale and whether or not there will be enough buyouts to avoid layoffs. Given that the buyout window is still open, it’s hard to have an absolute answer to that question just yet. Early efforts to handicap the outcome regrettably point to having to do some layoffs.”

The email says the buyout window for newsroom employees closes on December 1, 2014. Danielle Rhoades Ha, a director of communications at the New York Times Company, confirmed the email from Elder and said there would be no further information made public at present about the buyout program or layoffs.

The Times announced a plan in October to cut 100 newsroom jobs starting with a buyout program. Dean Baquet, the executive editor, wrote to staff then that layoffs were possible if not enough volunteers stepped forward: “We hope to meet this number through voluntary buyouts. But if we don’t get there we will be forced to do layoffs.?” At the end of October, the New York Times Company reported lower-than-expected quarterly revenue, and projected a further slowdown in ad sales, according to Reuters.

The Times had some other bad news for employees who are considering taking a buy-out package: Certain perks are going away, including free access to MoMA. “We’ve been asked a lot of questions about everything from “Can I keep my laptop?”… to “Does my retiree ID card allow me free access to museums?” (Most of the museums we’ve asked have said yes except for MoMA.)”

Rhoades Ha added in response to Mother Jones: “The company supports certain cultural institutions and as a result, employees get discounted entry fees. It’s not part of anyone’s ’employment package.'”

The full email is reproduced below:

Date: Thu, Nov 20, 2014 at 10:01 AM
Subject: A Note From Janet on Buyouts

Dear Colleagues,
The window for voluntary buyouts closes on Monday, Dec.1, at 5 p.m. We’ve been asked a lot of questions about everything from “Can I keep my laptop?” (it depends, talk to Walt Baranger) to “Does my retiree ID card allow me free access to museums?” (Most of the museums we’ve asked have said yes except for MoMA.)
But the most frequently asked question is about scale and whether or not there will be enough buyouts to avoid layoffs. Given that the buyout window is still open, it’s hard to have an absolute answer to that question just yet. Early efforts to handicap the outcome regrettably point to having to do some layoffs.
For the most part, we’ve been trying to review and either accept or reject voluntary buyout applications as they come in. Not all applications can be approved. Some jobs are too critical to our mission to let go. Many of you may still be contemplating the buyout. If you think it works well for you and your family, we urge you to give it serious consideration.
It is worth repeating here that if we do go to layoffs, there will not be any taps on the shoulder. Throughout this process, Dean has urged everyone to have a frank conversation with his or her supervisor about whether or not their goals match those of The Times. That’s still a good idea.
If you have any questions in the coming days please do not hesitate to reach out to Dean, Ian, Susan, Matt or me.

— Janet

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