NY Times to Buy Out Up to 20 Newsroom Staffers

Executive Editor Jill Abramson said there would be no layoffs

The New York Times announced another cost-cutting measure on Thursday, as a report on the paper’s website indicated the company would eliminate as many as 20 positions in the newsroom and more in other parts of the company.

Executive editor Jill Abramson sent a memo to the staff informing them that no employees would be laid off but that the paper would seek buyouts in the newsroom and on the business side, and would eliminate vacant jobs on the business side as well.

Romenesko obtained the memo, which reads as follows:

"As in previous buyouts, to ensure we do not cut too deeply in our journalistic muscle, we do reserve the right to turn down some volunteers who are in those areas of the newsroom where we feel we cannot reduce our numbers. It is for that reason, in part, that we have excluded those members of the Guild who are covered by the separate Digital contract."

That suggests that web producers are safe.

This is the first time the paper has announced a major staff reduction since 2009, when its economic future was considered quite bleak.

While the situation now is not considered as bad as it was then, the announcement comes precisely a week before the Times will announce its quarter three earnings, which are expected to be weak as a result of a decrease in advertising in both the print and online editions.

The staff changes are among many recent indications that the newspaper is looking to excise certain costs.

The company sold Baseline StudioSystems, a film and television database, last week. The Times also trimmed some weight in late September when it laid off 15 staffers from About.com. It said it would hire 10 replacements as part of a restructuring, but those 15 layoffs accounted for nearly 75 percent of the staff at the time.

The recent moves are somewhat surprising given that financial indicators had been pointing up over the summer. The Times announced in July that it would pay back a loan to Carlos Slim Helu, the richest man in the world, even earlier than had been expected.

A week later, it announced its second quarter earnings, which were interpreted as positive. While the company reported almost $120 million in losses, it revealed a large growth in online subscriptions.

That generated some optimism, since the Times has banked a great deal on its new online model. In a cover story for New York Magazine, Seth Mnookin declared the paywall a success.

Times chief executive Janet Robinson said the company expects to report about an eight percent decline in advertising in the third quarter, bigger than the four percent decline in the second quarter. It also expects online ad revenue to drop about two to three percent, after a 2.6 percent in the second quarter, the Times reported.

The drop does not bode well for a company that is continuing to transition from the print to the digital space.