The New York Times' voluntary buyout deadline came and went yesterday, and although several veteran editors have taken up the offer, it is unlikely that it is a sufficient number to meet the paper’s target of 30 managers. This means that layoffs are almost definitely on the way.
The buyouts are part of an effort to reduce costs for the paper’s extensive newsroom. As reported in the NYT’s Media Decoder blog in December, “the hiring The Times has done in recent years to help make it more competitive online has restored the newsroom to the same size it was in 2003 — about 1,150 people.”
Among high profile staff to accept the buyout is Jim Roberts, an assistant managing editor who, as it was widely noted, will be taking his 75,000+ Twitter followers with him. He announced his decision on Twitter:
"After 26 years at the New York Times, it's time for @nytjim to move on and find a new handle... I've been so privileged to work with true giants of journalism - fearless correspondents, wise analysts & masters of visual expression... I'm particularly grateful to my digital friends, who've schooled me in potential of multimedia, interactive, mobile & social journalism... It's been a long awesome trip. Another will follow. Stay tuned."
Times writer Jennifer Preston (the paper’s former social media editor) created a Storify of Twitter reactions to Roberts’ announcment.
PaidContent writer Jeff John Roberts questioned whether The Times had any legal right to Roberts’ followers; he was told by an NYT spokesperson that “the followers are his.”
Other editors leaving the paper include John Geddes, one of two managing editors, culture editor Jonathan Landman, sports editor Joe Sexton and Terry Schwadron, information and new-technology editor.
Editor of interactive news Aron Pilhofer told Poynter’s Mallary Tenore that many of the people leaving “helped shape where we are currently in the digital world.” He added, “there’s a lot of institutional memory walking out the door, and that’s tough.”
Voluntary buyouts are clearly preferable for publishers in many ways to forced layoffs, but they do mean that a newsroom could lose staff that it might really prefer to keep.