New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Joe Kahn have updated the newspaper of record’s staff in a memo about changes to the editing structure and process.
“We have taken some critical steps in remaking our editing system for the digital age. More than 100 editors, mainly from the copy desk but also from other parts of the newsroom, applied for new positions on desks, the Express team and an expanded Print Hub,” the memo reads. “This was the first big step in creating ‘strong desks’ to handle the full range of editing we do.”
The majority of those who applied will get new positions, but the memo also notes that a small “but significant number of people did not receive new positions as part of that process. They were told of their status last week so that they have time to consider the buyout offer.”
The memo is the latest in a back and forth between the editors and staff about the upcoming changes. It began with a call from copy editors for leadership to make the cuts less severe.
Cutting us down to 50 to 55 editors from more than 100, and expecting the same level of quality in the report, is dumbfoundingly unrealistic. Work with us on a new number.
Baquet and Kahn responded.
We are in fact eliminating a free standing copy desk. We are not, as we have said repeatedly, eliminating copy editing. A majority of people currently employed by the copy desk will find new editing jobs. All of our desks will continue to ensure a high level of editing, spanning backfielding, copy editing, photo editing and digital and print production, for all the journalism we produce.
The larger newsroom staff also weighed in.
Like nearly everyone we know in the newsroom, we believe that the plan to eliminate dozens of editing jobs and do away with the copy desks is ill-conceived and unwise, and will damage the quality of our product. It will make us sloppier, more error-prone.
They went on to protest.
The latest memo explains how the new editing changes will unfold during the next two months.
Our Digital Transitions team has a comprehensive plan to train editors and troubleshoot the changes desk by desk. By the end of September, the whole newsroom will be operating on the strong-desk model.
Here’s the full memo:
To the Staff,
We want to update you on the progress we’re making toward implementing a new editing system and adjusting the size of the staff to prepare us for the new challenges ahead.
We have taken some critical steps in remaking our editing system for the digital age. More than 100 editors, mainly from the copy desk but also from other parts of the newsroom, applied for new positions on desks, the Express team and an expanded Print Hub. This was the first big step in creating “strong desks” to handle the full range of editing we do.
A committee made up of 14 top editors from many parts of the newsroom spent many hours interviewing applicants and assessing their skills and the needs of the desks. The majority of people who applied were selected for new positions. A smaller but significant number of people did not receive new positions as part of that process. They were told of their status last week so that they have time to consider the buyout offer.
This was a difficult and painful process for many valued colleagues — and for all of us. But we believe it was deliberate, fair and necessary.
Over the next two months, on a staggered schedule, all desks will transition to the new editing system. Our Digital Transitions team has a comprehensive plan to train editors and troubleshoot the changes desk by desk. By the end of September, the whole newsroom will be operating on the strong-desk model.
That is a crucial part of the staff adjustment we are making. But it is not the only part.
This transition will affect all of us. It involves every aspect of how we produce, edit and promote our stories. It will require a wider range of skills from reporters as well as editors, from those concerned mainly with digital and from editors now focused primarily on print.
Despite the challenges, we believe most of you will find this transition exciting and rewarding. Others, though, may feel unsettled or unhappy about the way the newsroom is changing. Throughout this process, we have urged all newsroom employees, reporters as well as editors, to have frank conversations with their supervisors about whether their skills and career goals align with those of The Times. For those of you who haven’t had that conversation, we strongly encourage you to do so.
The buyout offer on the table closes next week on Thursday, July 20, at 5 p.m. We are hoping that we can generate the savings we need through voluntary staff reductions. If we fall short of the goal, we will need to undergo layoffs in the near future.
We realize that we’re asking a lot of people. We’re making a big adjustment to the way we produce our journalism amid one of the busiest and most challenging news cycles any of us can remember. We’re making some difficult choices about our current spending in order to free up the resources we need to remain the world’s indispensable news organization in the future.
We deeply appreciate your support through this transition, and feel certain we will emerge from it a stronger, nimbler, more innovative newsroom.
Dean & Joe