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Reporters at the New York Times could soon be "vulnerable" to the ax. If the ongoing round of voluntary buyouts being offered to editing staff do not get enough takers, the Gray Lady could begin another round, NYT Executive Editor Dean Baquet recently warned his top department editors.
"Up until now, the company had not indicated that layoffs would happen if targeted numbers weren't achieved," Grant Glickson, president of the NewsGuild told Media Ink.
As part of the NYT's ongoing restructuring of its editing ranks, 109 copy editors have had their jobs eliminated. There are estimated to be about 50 new jobs available in the restructured editing operation that the Times envisions for its digital- and video-oriented future.
When the downsizing was first revealed in late May, a memo from Baquet and Managing Editor Joe Kahn portrayed the cuts as a "streamlining" of the editing process and indicated that some of the savings would be used to hire up to 100 more journalists.
But in a mid-June meeting with department heads, Baquet admitted that journalists could be targeted in a new round of layoffs once the editing ranks are culled.
"I just attended a department head meeting with Dean and the rest of the staff," Metro Editor Wendell Jamieson said in a June 15 memo to his own staff. "While much of the buyout discussions have focused on editors, the buyouts are also available to reporters. Dean made it clear that, should the Times find itself in a layoff situation, reporters will also be vulnerable." The memo eventually made its way to the NewsGuild, where it triggered a new uproar.
The NewsGuild blasted the decision by Times management to do away with copy editors — and potentially expand its layoffs to reporters. "This proves what we have suspected all along," said Glickson. "The Times 'restructuring' of the newsroom is really about the bottom line and not about making the editing process more efficient, as they claim."
The process is speeding along, however, despite the union's objections. Interviews for copy editors to apply for the new positions are expected to conclude June 27. They are being conducted by 14 top editors — Jamieson, Nancy Gauss, Steve Kenny, Marc Lacey, Patrick LaForge, Dean Murphy, Caroline Que, Carolyn Ryan, Karron Skog, Dick Stevenson, Archie Tse, Vivian Toy and Susan Wessling. The interview committee will meet June 28 and June 29 to decide who will be called back for a second interview.
The second interview process is expected to end by July 10.
The buyout window closes July 20 — so there will be a 10-day period in which copy editors who have essentially been job eliminated can then "volunteer" for a buyout.
Said one insider, "If you don't have a job after the interview process is complete, you really have no choice but to take the buyout."