New York Times’ Pilhofer: ‘There’s a lot of institutional memory walking out the door’

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The New York Times’ round of buyouts that ended Thursday landed heavily on some of the organization’s digital leaders: Jonathan Landman, who took charge of the paper’s digital newsroom in 2005; John Geddes, who stressed the importance of maintaining the Times’ standards online; Terry Schwadron, the paper’s information and news-technology editor; Assistant Managing Editor (and social media star) Jim Roberts; and Tom Torok, who headed the Times’ computer-assisted reporting team.

Poynter Online Managing Editor Mallary Tenore talked with Editor of Interactive News Aron Pilhofer, who said Geddes’ absence would have the most “direct impact” on him:

John has been amazing. And obviously Jim, who has been instrumental in supporting all the things we do, both with social media and technology. It’s really unfortunate to lose both those guys — and Terry. Literally every editor who had some influence or impact in my time here at The New York Times is leaving.

Terry Schwadron hired me; Jon Landman more or less got this team started; John Geddes has been my editor for my last year and a half; Jim Roberts was basically that for me before John. It’s incredible. It’s really, really too bad.

These are all people who helped shape where we are currently in the digital world. Obviously, there’s a lot of talent in this newsroom in the editing ranks. I am still very optimistic. … This is still a place where I pinch myself every day when I come to work, but there’s a lot of institutional memory walking out the door, and that’s tough.

Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson “is, for the digital side, amazing,” Pilhofer said. “She continues to be absolutely commited to making The New York Times the best digital newsroom on the planet, and building out our social media team. So I have no doubt that things will be fine and that we will continue to do amazing things.” In a memo earlier this week, Abramson told staff that layoffs could follow if the buyouts “don’t reach the savings we need.”

Landman told Michael Calderone the buyouts ” give a little kick in the ass and you ask, ‘Is there anything else I want do at the Times?’ No, I’ve done 5 million things. Let’s go.”

Roberts’ large Twitter following is his, Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told Jeff John Roberts Thursday: “[T]here is not a specific policy in place that covers this kind of situation but, practically, when Jim leaves The Times officially he will likely change his account name and bio but the followers are his and will choose to continue to follow him (which I suspect), or not.”

(That informality echoes the Times’ laissez-faire social media policy, which Phil Corbett, the Times’ associate managing editor for standards, described to Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman as simply an imperative “that people should be thoughtful.”)

Roberts’ announcement that he was leaving the paper prompted scores to take their sorrow to Twitter Thursday. Here’s a Storify from the Times’ Jennifer Preston:


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