New York Times staffers band together over buyout anxiety

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The New York Times headquarters. (AP Photo)
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Jeremy Barr

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A group of New York Times employees acted en masse to request information detailing the buyout packages they would qualify for if they applied for them in a round of buyouts announced by the newspaper earlier this fall, several employees confirmed to Capital.

"There was a movement out of solidarity where a bunch of people just asked for it to protect those who were afraid to request it," Times Newspaper Guild Unit chair Grant Glickson told Capital.

"The guild didn't anticipate all the nervousness that staff would have over just raising their hand to view the package, because in the past it wasn't a concern."

In some past rounds of cost-cutting, buyout packages—which break down how much money each employee could receive, based on their length of service—were sent automatically to everyone eligible. This time around, Times staffers had until Oct. 17 to request the package.

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Employees who request information about a potential buyout worried they could be seen as signaling to management that they expect to be laid off or intend to leave the company, sources tell Capital, making them targets for layoffs should they ultimately decide against taking the buyout. The group thought that requesting package information en masse would make it difficult for management to finger individual employees who could be ideal candidates for the layoffs that will follow if enough employees don't go voluntarily.

"Some people who were undecided about leaving, or just curious, didn't want to request the paperwork because they worried (correctly or not) that it would put targets on their backs," Times higher education reporter Richard Pérez-Peña, a Guild vice chair, wrote Wednesday in a post on Facebook. "To protect those people, some of my colleagues suggested that EVERYONE should ask for it. Suddenly, the number soared, but most of those people have no intention of leaving."

Pérez-Peña was responding in part to a report by the New York Post's Keith Kelly that over 300 New York Times staffers had formally requested a breakdown of what a potential buyout package would look like. Some read the report as suggesting that hordes of Times journalists are looking to exit the company, possibly in excess of the 100 newsroom employees that Times management is actually looking to lose.

But a Times editor told Capital reading too much into the "300" number is misleading—and that the top of the masthead still predicts some layoffs may be necessary after the buyout process winds down in mid-December.

Pérez-Peña, for his part, said that he would be "stunned" if even 100 people end up applying for buyouts ("applying" is the optimal word because the Times can refuse to accept buyouts from employees deemed too essential to lose).

Glickson said that in the event of a future round of buyouts, he would ask that packages be mailed automatically to everyone who qualifies for one so as to protect employees who are anxious about giving off the wrong impression.

Times staffers have until Dec. 1 to formally request a buyout, and the deadline for finalizing buyout paperwork is Dec. 16.