July 6, 2017

One-by-one, copy editors at The New York Times are learning today that they won’t have jobs at the newspaper once the latest round of cuts takes place and are being encouraged to apply for buyouts.

The unwelcome news is being broken in meetings between copy editors and two-person teams of editors, according to a source at The New York Times who has been granted anonymity to speak candidly about the situation.

“People here are baffled and bitter, in part because there was some confusion at first about what the people summoned in to meet with senior editors today were being called for,” a source told Poynter. “At first, some thought it was for the promised second interview that was part of the application process for editors whose jobs are ending. It gradually became clear that this was not the case.”

Some staffers from other departments at The New York Times are having similar conversations with editors at the newspaper.

Some editors continued to do their jobs as they waited for their meetings even though they knew what was about to happen, the source said. At least one emerged from his meeting and sat back down at his desk.

Grant Glickson, the president of the New York NewsGuild and a New York Times employee, told Poynter that union members “are being called in and told that there’s no place for them and they should strongly consider the buyout.”

“We’re really outraged by the coldness and the way this whole process has gone,” Glickson said.

Today’s meetings are part of a long-anticipated effort at The New York Times to shift the balance of the newsroom toward reporting and away from editing in part by making sizable cuts to the copy editing staff.

Glickson said he did not have a tally of how many copy editors have been encouraged to take buyouts. The copy editing corps, which numbers more than 100, is being cut down to between 50 and 55 editors, according to an open letter published by the copy desk at the end of June.

The New York Times declined to comment Thursday.

The buyout, like most others in the media business, offers employees a cash payout on a sliding scale based on the number of years each has worked for The New York Times. The company is enhancing the buyout program by offering six months of outplacement services for all Guild-represented and excluded newsroom employees that were accepted.

Under the new editing model at The New York Times, desk editors will handle all aspects of a story, through various drafts to a completely copy edited version. That’s different from the current routine, where backfielders work with reporters to get a draft in shape before sending it to a copy editor for polishing and fact-checking.

Masthead editors at The New York Times say the changes will allow the company to “fund our ambitious plans to reduce the editing staff and hire more reporters.” But the changes have drawn protest from the paper’s reporting and editing staffs, which both wrote blistering notes to management. On June 29, hundreds of New York Times employees held a 15-minute walkout to protest the changes.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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