Last week, news spread that the New York Times would need to cut 100 of its 1,250 editorial staffers by year’s end. But instead of just flat-out firing people, the Times decided to lead with a buyout option open to any newsroom employee, which they delivered to everyone the next day.
And when the packages arrived, via UPS Next Day Air, they had some surprising details, as uncovered by the New York Observer, who managed to snag an envelope. The buyout, the Observer is reporting, consists “generally” of “three weeks pay per year of service and up to two years pay for longtime employees.” Times editor Bill Keller explained the option thusly:
[T]he Company will be sending buyout offers to everyone in the newsroom. Getting a buyout package does NOT mean we want you to leave. It is simply easier to send the envelopes to everyone. If you think a buyout may be right for you, you have up to 45 days to decide whether you will accept it or not.
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.
In essence, the paper would dare its employees to consider themselves safe in a twisted journo-job version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma.
The paperwork also includes a list of every single Times employee, sans name, by “department, job title, birth date and age,” including “the printers, the security guards, the reporters.” Then, the Observer broke down some telling numbers:
Editors at the Book Review: 14
Number of Pressman Journeymen at the College Point plant: 106
Reporters at Metro: 50
Size of the Opinion/Editorial Department: 49
Size of Sports Desk: 57
Critics in the Culture Department: 18
Editors at The Times Magazine: 21
Average age of the Obituaries Desk: 58 years old
Size of Thursday Styles: 7
Size of Business Desk: 85
Size of Washington Bureau: 45
Size of the Dallas Sales/Advertising Staff: 4
Size of Week in Review: 5
Total size of Art Department: 113
Size of Dining: 5
Size of Metro: 103
It’s no secret that the paper has been bogged down by a bloated staff and excess legacy costs when nearly every other giant paper in the country tops out at around 700 editorial employees to the Times‘ 1,250, but these numbers are revealing. On one hand, it’s impressive that such seminal sections as the Dining and Thursday Styles run on such little manpower, but a team of 103 for the Metro section of an international paper? Let’s just say it will be interesting to revisit this list again in 3 months, one year and again in five.