The legendary New York Times went into full panic mode late last week after the metro section’s editor, Cliff Levy, the Pulitzer Prize winning editor, in an email lambasted staffers writing that they had “lost its footing” and was in need of “urgent’ reform.
Calling Levy’s comments a “public fragging” the union for journalists, the News Guild of New York, said his offer of “voluntary” buyouts because the section of the paper is becoming more internet influenced.
Because the Times has been able to draw significant monies from there online presence, it is necessary for them to consider making the transition from paper to print and even trimming some of its staff members whom the deem not getting the “clicks” or views on a specific article.
Particular focus is being placed on the Metro section which focuses on local news. Much of the attention that the Times has been shifting to has been on President Donald Trump. The Times has become center stage on their focus on the president and on his actions and policies.
Last Friday afternoon, a town meeting was held by the lead editors and publisher at the New York Times to diffuse the tension between themselves and their staff. Sulzberger, publisher, Dean Paquet, executive editor, Mark Thompson, CEO as well as Levy were in attendance.
At the meeting the editors were forces to allay concerns about Levy’s insinuation that some on the staff were not open minded to adapting to the digital-age format.
The guild responded angrily that the Times manager had “manufactured [a] narrative of staff obstinacy – should make every decent member of management cringe.”
Sulzberger, the fresh faced new publisher of the Times, whose family has run the business since it began back in the mid 1800s, admitted at the meeting held on the 15th Floor of the Times headquarters in midtown, not far from Port Authority Bus Terminal, acknowledged that he had read the memo before its release.
Sulzberger said he didn’t process, in essence, the “same way it landed in the collective mind of the metro desk,” said an anonymous source who was at the meeting. He added that the Publisher, “didn’t see it for what it became – the bomb that impugned our reporting,” the insider related.
Times officials said that the voluntary buyouts that are being offered are not a lead up to a mass layoffs of the staff. In addition to Sulzberger, Levy addressed that staff, too, according to another unidentified source. Levy said that he did not intend to offend or upset people,” the source added. He just “was saying change was coming.”
After the meeting ended many of the staffers felt more at ease but one veteran staffer said the last time he saw such animosity and chaos was in 2003 with the Jayson Blair who had plagiarized his work that led to the firing of executive editor Howell Raines for his handling of the whole matter.
In Levy’s controversial memo, he related how he desired that reporters write stories that “engaged’ the audience and that it have an “impact,” that he would not judge the articles on clicks alone.
Still, many on the Times staff remain worried about their status because they took the memo to read that Levy did intend to use clicks as part of the criteria to evaluate the efficacy of the writing.
However Mr. Baquet said it would. He affirmed by saying “I outrank Cliff – you will not be evaluated on the basis of click,” related another source who attended the meeting.
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