Times Editors Ask Reporters for Cost-Cutting Suggestions

berke040909 Times Editors Ask Reporters for Cost Cutting SuggestionsNew York Times editors have come to the newsroom with a simple question: Got any ideas on how to save money?

Rick Berke, The Times’ assistant managing editor, sent a memo to the newsroom this morning to ask reporters and editors to come forward with any ideas to cut costs. The ideas can be small (cut down on the amount of paper used in the newsroom?) or big (add a pay-wall to nytimes.com?).

Budget matters have always been the responsibility of editors. Mr. Berke himself addressed this in a recent chat on the paper’s Web site when he said, “But top editors—by necessity—are now part of the conversation about our financial well-being to a degree that would have been unheard of not so long ago. (Ah, the days when we could be purists who never even wondered about ad revenue for the quarter. . . . )”

Editors have traditionally been able to protect reporters from such matters. But not anymore.

“If you have an idea—any idea—that you would like to share with the news and/or business management, forward it to me and I will make sure it gets to the right person at the highest levels,” wrote Mr. Berke in today’s newsroom-wide memo. “If you prefer, Bill said he’d be happy to take your emails directly. And if you are interested in attending one of our upcoming brainstorming lunches, let me know.”

“The significance of this is the newsroom is now involved in a way it hasn’t before,” one Times staffer told The Observer. “They’re being asked for ideas.”

Which could work, or might not. It’s one thing when you have a magical circle of a trusted colleagues; it’s another when Mr. Berke, along with top editors Bill Keller and Jill Abramson, are ready to open up closed-door lunches and hear dozens of people throw ideas at them.

One thing is clear: By the end of the month, Mr. Keller and the top Times editors will need to submit a budget proposal to Mr. Sulzberger, which may include a smaller newspaper and pay cuts across the board (one staffer said there was a sense of “resignation” that the 5 percent budget cuts will go through for the Guild).

Here’s Mr. Berke’s memo to the newsroom:

To the Newsroom:

Many of you have asked how you could share your  thoughts and ideas about ensuring a healthy financial future for The New York Times.

There is an active channel from the newsroom to the business side. Several committees, with representation from news and business, are actively exploring various money-making pursuits.  And every week, newsroom representatives have been attending breakfasts held by the company’s business leadership to hear what is on their minds.

And to make sure all corners of the newsroom have a voice, at the start of the year, we began organizing regular lunches with newsroom employees at all levels to offer their money making  (and saving) ideas — large and small — for the Times. This is all about ways to better capitalize on our journalism.

These sessions are always attended by Bill, Jill, other members of the newsroom masthead, and a representative from the business side. We have had four lunches already, and they have been inspiring; a reminder of not only the depth of wisdom and cutting edge ideas in the newsroom, but of the devotion we all have to the continued success of The Times.

Summaries of the lunches have been forwarded to the business side. The ideas have ranged from ambitious multi-paged business models (in one case by a Harvard MBA who is a reporter here) to practical cost-saving notions like cutting back on paper in the newsroom.

Tom Carley, the senior vice president of planning, said many of the ideas had already been under consideration by the business side, but that the lunches have helped give his staff sharper focus. He said some of the ideas from the lunches have been rejected. But the encouraging news is that there are several suggestions that the business staff is now actively considering.

After the most recent lunch, Tom told me he appreciated the “intelligence and passion of the newsroom.”

If you have an idea — any idea — that you would like to share with the news and/or business management, forward it to me and I will make sure it gets to the right person at the highest levels. If you prefer, Bill said he’d be happy to take your emails directly.

And if you are interested in attending one of our upcoming brainstorming lunches, let me know.

Thanks.
Rick