New York Times Reporters Join Fight in Solidarity With Copy Editors

06/29/2017

New York, NY - Today, New York Times reporters, members of the NewsGuild of New York, sent a letter to Times management in solidarity with their colleagues in the editing department, asking that management reconsider their plan to "restructure" the newsroom by eliminating copy and photo editor positions. 

The letter, sent to Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Joseph Kahn, stresses that no past layoffs or buyouts in New York Times history "were as destructive to morale – nor, we fear, as destructive to The Times – as this one. It is something different in kind." A recent memo from New York Times management also stated reporters may be vulnerable to layoffs if management does not meet their buyout number.

New York Times reporters and editorial staff will leave the newsroom today at 3 PM in a demonstration of solidarity as management eliminates copy and photo editor positions.

"At a time when journalism is under attack, the New York Times should lead by example and protect these good jobs for its hardworking employees," said Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.  "The Times is known for balanced, responsible journalism, and we stand with the News Guild in urging the Times to maintain the quality and integrity of its newsroom by maintaining these dedicated careers."

Below is the letter from the Times’ reporters:

Dear Dean and Joe,

We write to you as the saved – those whose copy, facts and sometimes the intelligibility of a sentence or two have been hammered into shape by our friends and colleagues on the editing desks. Our editors ask smart questions, engage passionately with our copy, and serve as our safety nets. Editors – and yes, that especially means copy editors – save reporters and The Times every day from countless errors, large and small.

Copy and backfield editors, producers and photo editors work in concert with one another and with the rest of us to make The New York Times the best-written and best-edited daily newspaper in the world. As hundreds of thousands of new subscribers join us for the first time, we’re left at a loss by our newspaper’s intent on hacking off one of its own arms.

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. It will undermine the reputation that generations have worked to build and maintain, the reputation that keeps readers coming back. You are reducing the number of people doing the work of editing, which would be harmful enough in itself. But you plan to take work away from people who do it well, and give it to people who have not developed the same skills, and who are already over-burdened.

We writers are not in need of a companionable read before someone hits the send button on our articles. We don’t need a stroke and a purr. We want forceful, focused intellects brought to bear on our work. We realize that painful change is afoot. We’ve accepted and borne the brunt of many rounds of layoffs and buyouts. None were as destructive to morale – nor, we fear, as destructive to The Times – as this one. It is something different in kind.

Your plan adds insult to injury by requiring many longtime, highly skilled employees to apply and interview for a greatly diminished number of jobs, in sessions that were instantly dubbed "death panels" in the newsroom. Requiring them to dance for their supper sends a clear message to them, and to us, that the respect we have shown The Times will not be reciprocated.

What’s more, this change has had only the barest pretense of transparency. From where we sit, the editing “experiments” looked like flimsy, brief set-pieces, never truly tested under fire – certainly not something on which to base a whole new system. Nothing we have heard from our editor friends says otherwise. We have no idea what results they yielded; you have not told us what you believe worked, what did not, or why. As usual, management sought little input from outside its own ranks.

You are fine journalists with good values, and we prize your leadership. Please reconsider this process, and the message it sends to every corner of the newsroom and the world.

Sincerely,
The Reporters

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About the NewsGuild

The NewsGuild of New York is the union for print and digital news professionals in America’s media capital. We are the workplace advocate for people in the media business, including some of the best journalists in the country. The majority of our nearly 3,000 members work in newsrooms at media organizations from print to digital to broadcast. We represent workers at the following companies: The Hour, Law360, Amsterdam News, El Diario, The Foreign Policy Association,  Hudson News, The Jewish Forward, Jewish Telegraphic Agency/70 Faces Media, Kaplan International Centers, The Nation, The Daily Beast, The New York Times, The Jersey Journal, Standard & Poor's, Scholastic, Inc., Consumer's Union, Thomson Reuters, WPIX-TV, and Writers Guild of America East.

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