What Does the New York Times and Gary Gilmore Have in Common? A Firing Squad


nytimesI want to begin this post by saying that more bad news from the New York Times does not make me happy. I may have alluded to this anecdote in a prior post, but one of my earlier memories of anything is being about 4 and sitting on my parents’ old green sectional couch. I had my mother’s glasses on and the New York Times laid out to my left along the wide side of the couch, just the way she used to read it. And the pose was me looking as if I, too, was reading it. And there’s another photo I remember: I am maybe 5 or 6, and I’m sitting at a little stack table with the Sunday Times crossword laid out before me and a pencil in my hand. No four-letter words, please.

So the news from the Times today just reinforces for me the increasing sense that print is, by and large, dying. Mind you, I do not believe that all forms of print will disappear. But I do think the major daily is probably an endangered species. True, it may receive, in the next week or months, something akin to a lifeline by dint of some kind of federal legislation. For example, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) has introduced legislation that would — to quote this Fox News story — “rewrite tax law to allow newspapers to operate as tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, just as long as they don’t make official endorsements of political candidates.”

Story continues below.

You can read the actual bill here.

Meanwhile, back to the Times. According to this story, 100 jobs on the business side are being cut. And according to this related piece, salary cuts are coming, too. Here’s the actual memo:

Dear Colleagues,

As you know, the global economic crisis is taking its toll on a broad range of businesses and sectors, here in the U.S. and around the world. We have reported in our own newspapers and on our own Web sites that the economy is likely to continue struggling throughout this year and possibly longer.

Given this economic outlook and the changes occurring in the media business, we, regrettably, must take even more steps to lower costs. We have been, and continue to, reorganize and reduce our staff, which means we are saying goodbye to many of our close colleagues. Now, in addition, we are lowering salaries through the end of this year for all remaining nonunion employees and, in exchange, providing additional time off. We plan to approach the Newspaper Guild in New York to ask for its participation in the program and to continue working with our unions in Boston and our other locations on lowering our costs, including wage reductions.

The salaries of all employees at The New York Times Media Group (with the exception of the IHT, which is working on other cost reduction measures), The Boston Globe, Boston.com and Corporate in New York will be rolled back by 5%, starting this April, and these employees will receive 10 additional days off to use before the end of the year.

At the About Group, Baseline, Globe Direct, International Media Concepts, Regional Media Group, Shared Services Center and Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the approach is similar, with salaries being rolled back by 2.5% with five additional days off. We made the distinction between the two groups by taking into account location and other factors. Next year, we plan to return salaries to their current levels. Of course, such a decision depends on the state of our business.

Many of you will have questions about these actions. Your manager or department head has been briefed with more details and is your best source of information.

This was a very difficult decision to make. The environment we are in is the toughest we have seen in our years in business. Across our Company, you and your colleagues have worked hard to introduce innovative products and services, reduce expenses and improve productivity. We are deeply grateful for your efforts and proud of your achievements. As we take these painful steps together, we remain confident that our great Company will keep moving forward to better times.

So tell me: Who out there is still a Polyannish idiot about how everything is rosy, hm?