‘New York Times’ 2013 buyouts and layoffs watch

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The New York Times building. (wallyg via flickr)
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For most of 2012, The New York Times was in the process of slimming down, though little of it read like the foreboding news we encountered last year about other papers. The process primarily involved shedding ancillary assets owned by the Times Company, and refocusing efforts around the core New York Times editorial brand.

2013, however, kicked off with another round of the painful personnel downsizing that has already chilled morale at the paper of record three times over the last four years.

Executive editor Jill Abramson announced last month that 30 newsroom buyouts would be necessary to keep the budget on keel and avoid layoffs. New York magazine's Joe Hagan revealed that as of a few weeks ago, there hadn't been many takers; with the Jan. 24 deadline coming later this week, Abramson is said to be “begging and pleading” with several top editors to leave on their own to help avoid pink slips.

As of the morning of Jan. 21, only five buyouts have been confirmed.

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But the editorial side, where further buyouts and possible layoffs still lie ahead, is only part of the story. The ax has begun to come down on the business and operations sides of the paper in recent days, too. And not through voluntary attrition.

Reporters who cover the Times were stunned last week when it was revealed that P.R. chief Bob Christie would be leaving at the end of January after three years running corporate communications for the company. His exit creates an efficiency, as the paper announced it had no plans to replace him.

Christie is at least the fifth executive in roughly the past year to exit and not be replaced. (Eileen Murphy, one of his deputies, will assume his role.) His departure follows those of former longtime digital chief Martin Nisenholtz; former president and general manager Scott Heekin-Canedy; former human resources senior vice president Todd McCarty; and Jennifer Dolan, who previously oversaw newsprint acquisition.

We'll be keeping track of the buyouts and other departures and updating this article in the space below as they come up. (And since not all buyouts or layoffs come with big public announcements, please forward any tips you've got: joe@capitalnewyork.com.)

Here's the run-down so far:

• Culture editor Jonathan Landman was the first to make his buyout decision public, telling colleagues in a memo obtained by Poynter: "We all know that the newsroom has to reduce its costs. No less urgent is its responsibility to cultivate a new generation of leaders. My continued presence would help accomplish neither. So it’s time to go."

• Reporter Jacques Steinberg formally announced his exit around the same time, Hagan reported.

• News of longtime columnist Joyce Wadler's departure was relayed sometime around Jan. 14 "in a longer email to Times staff, noting that Ms. Wadler would leave the Times to pursue her passion: humor writing," according to The New York Observer.

• She was followed on Jan. 18 by special sections and development editor Alice DuBois, who took a job at BuzzFeed. Ben Smith, the website's editor-in-chief, told Politico's Dylan Byers: "Alice's hire represents how heavily invested we are in technology and how we see our proprietary custom CMS as really tightly linked to our journalism and the social web. We're thrilled she's joining us."

• That same day, managing editor John Geddes, one of the top three journalists on the Times masthead, announced he had accepted a buyout, writing in a note to staff: “After serving four executive editors, it is time for new horizons.”

• Two days earlier, Christie offered the following farewell in an email received by Capital: "In the coming days I will be leaving The New York Times Company after three terrific years. I’ll leave here with many fond memories and plenty of battle scars."

 Jan. 23: Arts Journal reports that Times classical music editor "James Oestreich has finally accepted a buyout and will retire at the end of the month from the New York Times. He’s 70 this year, so it’s about time, but he has been hanging on for dear life. His departure will unblock a function that has ossified and gone rancid in recent years." Or as Oestreich put it in his memo to staff, which was forwarded to Capital: " I have decided to make a major change and take advantage of The Times's current buyout offer. ... I am excited about the prospect (finally) of balancing my life with a bit of teaching, other writing and maybe even a book project."

 Jan. 23: Abramson sent out an 11th-hour memo urging staffers to consider the buyouts and indicating, "We will know a day or two after [Thursday's deadline] whether or not we will have to go to layoffs."

 Jan. 24: Deadline day! Sports editor Joe Sexton announced that he is leaving for a job as a senior editor at ProPublica.

 Jan. 24: "Terry Schwadron, head of news operations, has decided to take the Times buyout," the Observer reports. "The announcement went out in an email to the newsroom this morning."

•Jan. 24: Jim Roberts, an assistant managing editor with 26 years at the paper, just announced his exit on Twitter:

•Jan. 25: The deadline has passed, but the name of at least one more buyout-taker has trickled out. From a memo earlier this week forwarded to us by a source: "For more than 17 years, Chris Carroll has been a steady and pleasant presence on the News Design staff. So we're sad to announce that Chris will be taking the buyout. His last day at work will be Thursday, Jan. 31."

•Jan. 25: The New York Post's Keith Kelly reports that an additional 12 buyouts were accepted by unionized Times employees who are members of the Newspaper Guild of New York, but that those won't count toward the 30-person target to avoid layoffs.

•Jan. 25: Politico reports: "Tom Torok, head of The New York Times’ computer-assisted reporting team, is the latest staffer to take a buyout from the paper." Also: "A Times source tells POLITICO that more than 20 staffers have taken a buyout, though only a dozen of those departures have been reported."

•Jan. 25: A source tells us national editor Sam Sifton sent out a memo this afternoon to announce the departure of another old-timer. "It is with a heavy heart that I tell you Alix Pelletier Paul is taking the buyout, after 31 years here at The Times," Sifton wrote. "She's moving to Florida to open a business. ... Alix joined The Times in 1982, 20 years after her parents met on the sidewalk in front of the building. ... Alix has amassed a portfolio that includes the management not just of our corner of the newsroom, but of the DC bureau and the investigations desk as well, along with the newspaper's coverage of national political conventions and elections, major news events and the care and feeding of our 14 national news bureaus. ... Please join me in grief and raise high your praise for a woman who helps define the very best qualities of this newspaper and its culture."

•Jan. 26: Michael Calderone has some chatter about a few more potential buyouts, as well as the following tidbit: "There's also been some grumbling among staffers over executive editor Jill Abramson traveling to the Sundance Film Festival last week. The decision, to some, appeared tone deaf as dozens of Times veterans are either voluntarily heading for the exits (or will be told to do so if the target isn't met).

•Jan. 28: Abramson wrote in a memo to staff: "We are through the process of offering voluntary buyouts and cutting staff. In the end, we had to layoff far fewer people than we anticipated, having achieved most of our savings through the voluntary process."

•Jan. 29: Deputy tech editor David Gallagher announced on Twitter:

•Jan. 29: D.C. bureau chief David Leonhardt informed staff that 27-year Times veteran Jack Cushman is leaving the paper. "Jack began working for The Times in 1986, and his first byline ran on A1 ("SENATE APPROVES MILITARY CHANGES"). He has covered the military and the environment, served as day editor and weekend editor, wrote breaking news for the Web and filled in as night editor," Leonhardt wrote in a memo obtained by Capital. "Beyond his fine journalistic work, Jack has been a generous colleague. ... We will miss him."

•Jan. 29:

•Jan. 31: Ponyter's Andrew Beaujon has the names of a few more journalists "who’ve taken the deals and/or are leaving," including, most notably, Times legend Charles "Chip" McGrath. Also: senior editor Lawrie Mifflin; admin Aaron Henry; and dining reporter Glenn Collins.

•Jan. 31:

(Disclosure: I recently completed two freelance assignments for the Times Styles section.)