Accuracy in Media

Last week I reported on the open revolt by current and former staffers at The New York Times in response to the paper’s recent moves to freeze pensions of employees while awarding a fat pension to former CEO Janet L. Robinson before she was eligible, according to the company’s own policy.

On Monday, The New York Newspaper Guild, which represents 1,000 active Times employees and is the largest union at the paper, sent an open letter blasting the moves to Times Chairman Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr. Since my initial report the number of signatures has grown from 358 to 573 current and former staffers, with many of them posting comments about the changes.

What seemed to bother the signers the most was that the company was telling them one thing while pulling the rug out from under them. This comment is from a longtime editor at the Times:

“As the Guild’s letter states, the disconnect between the praise lavished upon us and the dismissive treatment we have experienced in negotiations has reached grotesque proportions. Talk without supporting action is by definition cheap, and a bit contemptuous to boot. The Times model is BASED on providing premium journalism; this is a business that is fundamentally about intellectual property — that happens to be your labor force. Do what’s right by your staff, and your brand will flourish. Do badly, and watch the staff leave or lose heart, and the readership flatten or slip.”

That sentiment was echoed by video journalist Gabe Johnson.

“I’m sure that you must have certain pressures that I am not privy to, but I still find it troubling that The Times is compensating an executive at the expense of the rank and file, the very behavior that we criticize in our editorial pages.”

And domestic reporter Tamar Levin summed it up this way.

 “I feel that the gap between what Janet Robinson will be leaving with, and what we are being offered, is simply wrong.”

It is unlikely that this letter and the comments will have any effect on what Sulzberger and the rest of The New York Times Co. management plan to do as financial pressures continue to squeeze the paper. But if the employees feel they aren’t appreciated and are being treated unfairly, it will only exacerbate the downward spiral the Times is currently in and threaten the newspaper’s ability to survive in the long run.

You can read the letter here.





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