December 9, 2022

First they talked the talk. Then they walked the walk. Or should I say they walked out?

Following up on their threat, more than 1,100 unionized New York Times employees walked off the job Thursday for a 24-hour strike. It’s the latest salvo in contract negotiations that have been tense since the union’s last contract expired in March 2021.

My Poynter colleague Angela Fu wrote, “In an effort to avert the strike, both sides met for bargaining on Tuesday and Wednesday, which led to some progress. The Times agreed to keep its pension plan in place and expanded fertility treatment benefits. However, the company ended negotiations Wednesday evening when they received notification from union members that the strike would proceed. The NewsGuild said those notifications were from members who ‘did the responsible thing’ and let their managers know they would honor the walkout if it happened. In notes to employees, company executives wrote that they were disappointed that the union had decided to strike since progress was still being made at the bargaining table.”

The New York Times Guild put out a tweet Thursday that said, “To our readers: We did not make this decision lightly. We are deeply committed to the success of the @nytimes. We also know that we produce our best work when we feel valued and are treated equitably. Thank you for standing by us today.”

Meanwhile, New York Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha said the union informed the company of a one-day strike while negotiations were ongoing. She wrote, “It is disappointing that they are taking such an extreme action when we are not at an impasse.”

Times executive editor Joe Kahn told the Times, “Strikes typically happen when talks deadlock. That is not where we are today. While the company and the NewsGuild remain apart on a number of issues, we continue to trade proposals and make progress toward an agreement.”

Dozens of Times union members rallied outside the Times’ New York main headquarters on Thursday afternoon. That included carrying signs, handing out pamphlets and making speeches.

Veteran Times reporter and union member Michael Powell told NPR’s David Folkenflik, “From my point of view, this is an absolutely necessary shot across the bow. We’re approaching three years now without a contract. We’ve seen our salaries — almost all of us — go straight backward, over the years. That’s not acceptable.”

Check out Fu’s story for some of the details of the negotiations and what both sides are looking for.

Not everyone walked out

The big news that broke early Thursday morning was that WNBA star Brittney Griner was being released from Russian detention after a prisoner swap.

If you went to The New York Times’ website on Thursday, the Griner story was the main featured story. And it was written by two prominent Times White House correspondents — Peter Baker and Michael Shear. The two high-profile reporters were not among the Times staffers who walked out Thursday.

Semafor’s Max Tani reported that the two told their colleagues ahead of time that they would not be participating in the one-day walkout. Tani wrote, “The rift in the powerful Washington bureau reflects a lingering generational and ideological divide between many in the newsroom and a group of older unionized staff in the D.C bureau. Some staff in the D.C bureau believe the union should focus more on compensation and other concrete worker protections, and less on broader cultural and social issues that have also been part of the union’s bargaining proposals. Union leaders have tried to keep the focus largely on economic issues which unite a larger part of the union.”

Tani added, “The New York NewsGuild, the labor union that represents that Times, says 80% of union members (around 1160 staffers) signed pledges to participate in the strike, including journalists, advertising staff, and security guards.”

Some Times staffers took to social media to encourage readers to not partake in Times products on Thursday — including such things as newsletters, “The Daily” podcast and even Wordle, the popular word game in the Times’ Games section.

The Times website on Thursday was still full of stories written by staffers, but the NewsGuild tweeted, “If you see someone’s name on a story on Thursday or Friday, it does not necessarily mean they crossed the picket line to write it. Newspapers often have reporters write portions of stories ahead of time when possible.”

And now, for the rest of today’s newsletter: a few tidbits and recommended reading for your weekend …

  • As mentioned above, the big news Thursday was Russia releasing WNBA star Brittney Griner in a prisoner exchange. The U.S. released convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. While many rejoiced Griner coming home, there is sadness and frustration that Paul Whelan, a former Marine imprisoned in Russia on espionage charges, remains in Russia. The Biden administration insists that Russia refused to release Whelan at this time and that the U.S. was given the choice of bringing home either Griner or no one. Here’s the CNN story from Jennifer Hansler, Kylie Atwood, Jeremy Herb, MJ Lee and Kevin Liptak.
  • The Washington Post’s Paulina Villegas with “Who is Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine held in Russia?”
  • Also in The Washington Post, Adam Taylor with “Russia wanted Viktor Bout back, badly. The question is: Why?”
  • Politico’s Alexander Ward and Johnathan Lemire with “Biden had a ‘painful’ decision to make to secure Griner’s release. He made it.”
  • Best response of the day. In a press conference with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked why Russia got such a “better deal” in the prisoner swap. He said, “They gave up a professional athlete. We gave up a prolific arms dealer, who was convicted of trying to kill Americans, who was called ‘the Merchant of Death.’” Jean-Pierre had the perfect response, saying, “The professional athlete was also an American citizen.” Here’s the exchange.
  • For the record, CBS News was the first to break the Griner story. Apparently, CBS News learned last week that a deal between the U.S. and Russia was being brokered and it held off from reporting it so as not to put the deal in jeopardy. On the air Thursday, CBS News’ Margaret Brennan told viewers, “CBS first learned that this swap was going to happen last Thursday. CBS News agreed that the Briner-for-Bout swap, which we knew was underway … that we would not report the details of it. This was at the request of the White House, which asked us not to make it public because officials expressed grave concern about the fragility of the emerging deal and feared it would impede the safety — perhaps put those Americans at risk.”
  • Good insider stuff here from NBC News’ Marc Caputo: “Inside the turbulent, doomed campaign of Herschel Walker.”
  • In a piece co-published by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, Tim Golden with “The Cienfuegos Affair: Inside the Case that Upended America’s Drug War.”
  • Mediaite” Tommy Christopher has a teaser of Chris Wallace’s CNN interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci: “What do you think of Donald Trump?”
  • Wall Street Journal sports columnist Jason Gay: “Soccer’s Greatest Beauty: It Takes Two Hours.”
  • Here are a few NBC News moves announced Thursday. Allie Raffa is being named NBC News White House correspondent. She has been covering Congress as a Capitol Hill correspondent. Julie Tsirkin, who has been a part of the NBC’s Capitol Hill team since 2019, is taking on a new role as Congressional correspondent. Josh Lederman is joining the London Bureau as a foreign correspondent. He has been reporting out of the Washington Bureau.
  • Speaking of moves, Vox has promoted Natalie Jennings, who has been Vox’s political editor, to managing editor. She joined Vox earlier this year from the Washington Post.
  • Clarissa Ward, CNN’s chief international correspondent, was honored this week with the National Press Club’s Fourth Estate Award, which recognizes journalists who have made significant contributions to the field.

More resources for journalists

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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