OVER THE WEEKEND, the New York Times‘ ‘Sports of the Times’ columnist George Vecsey surprised regular readers with his Saturday column this week, which he used to announce a change in his schedule: “it is time to step back (not using the R-word) and write for the paper occasionally.”
Mr. Vecsey was one of several Times veterans who signed off on the latest round of buyout packages recently offered to the paper’s staffers, many of whom were publicly mourned on Twitter by Times staffers (“Some really good people leaving @nytimes with the latest round of voluntary buyouts. Paper will be less w/o them,” one wrote).
The Observer was recently passed on a series of communiques from the Times in-house blog detailing who took the buyouts. In addition to Mr. Vecsey, a 30-year veteran of the paper, they are:
- Clyde Haberman, Metro columnist, 34-year veteran of the Times. Mr. Haberman’s 16-year run with the print edition’s regular New York City column abruptly ended this summer, when he was switched to a column on the paper’s City Room blog, scheduled to appear four times a week. Mr. Haberman had worked at the Times regularly since 1977, though his career at the paper started as a copy boy in 1964.
- Andrea Stevens, Arts reporter, a 27-year veteran of the Times. Ms. Stevens started her career on the Arts desk in 1984, from where she has reported on books, theater, television, and film since.
- Andy Port, Executive Editor of T, a 20-year veteran of the Times. Ms. Port started her career at T—or what eventually became T, the ‘Fashion of The Times’—in 1992.
- Sam Dillon, National Education correspondent, a 20-year veteran of the Times. Mr. Dillon is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, having reported with winning teams in 1987 (for a series written in his days at the Miami Herald about the Iran-Contra affair) and again in 1997 (for a series about drug corruption in Mexico, written with colleagues at the Times).
- Nicholas Wade, Science reporter/editor, a 29-year veteran of the Times. Mr. Wade held stints at the paper both as a writer on the editorial board and a seven-year stint as the editor of the paper’s Science section.
- Barclay Walsh, News Research supervisor for the Washington Bureau, a 24-year veteran of the Times.
- Donald Parsons, News Design Editor, a 29-year veteran of the Times.
The departures were mourned and the staffers commemorated over the last week, through a series of tributes circulated at the Times internally. They are sweet, and touching, and in some cases—especially in the case of those written by the retirees themselves, like Nicholas Wade discussing his time writing scientific editorials—particularly insightful both in regards to culture and day-to-day work at the Times, from the perspective of its departing veterans.
We’ve posted the communiques in full below, and broken them up into pages to make them easier to read (they can get wordy, of course).
Pete Khoury, the paper’s Night Metro Editor, on Metro Columnist Clyde Haberman:
December 16, 2011 – The Ultimate Newspaper’s Newsman
A few years ago, a respected copy editor who had just read Clyde Haberman’s NYC column told him: “If everyone wrote as cleanly as you do, I’d be out of a job.’’
Well, they don’t.
Being able to produce consistently clean copy is just one of the many fine qualities that Clyde, who began working at The Times as a night copy boy in 1964 when he was a student at City College, has graced us with. Clyde, who has worked continuously at the newspaper since 1977 — covering everything from Jerusalem to City Hall — is taking the buyout. (Don’t worry, he’ll still be writing for us. More on that in a bit.)
Most of us associate Clyde with his insightful NYC column, which ran for more than 15 years and offered wonderful seen-it-all takes on New York, its government and interesting characters. But Clyde, whose cordial manner, dependability, clever wordplay and perspective make him a quintessential Timesman, has had the full Times experience.
The year after he started here as a copy boy, Clyde became the newspaper’s City College stringer at a time when the campus was rife with stories about civil rights and Vietnam. A youthful prank ended that stint in 1966 (see “The Kingdom and the Power” by Gay Talese for details on that well-worn story).
Clyde joined The New York Post, where he flourished as a reporter, covering high-profile stories like the Attica prison uprising and Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign for president.
In 1977, Clyde returned to The Times, working as an editor in the Week in Review before joining the Metro desk in 1978. He wrote a people column, worked as a general assignment reporter and covered City Hall, eventually as bureau chief.
Like Clyde, former Metro Editor Joyce Purnick came to The Times from The Post. “He was, in effect, my unofficial tutor’’ in making the transition to writing hard-news stories for The Times, said Joyce, who worked at City Hall with Clyde. (The Post, then an afternoon paper, favored second-day ledes.) “Clyde was — and is — a brilliant writer and an extraordinarily clear writer,’’ Joyce said. “He knows how to get to the heart of the matter.’’
After a stint writing a column of city vignettes, Clyde began a 13-year tour as a foreign correspondent, which took him to Tokyo, Rome and Jerusalem.
Clyde returned to Metro in 1995 to write the NYC column.
To plagiarize from something I wrote a few years ago about NYC:
“Clyde’s column routinely showcases his rich perspective and urbane wit. Whether he’s weighing in on the rich array of crimes that our politicians have committed of late, the always-dreaded weekend subway schedule, or police-involved killings, he invariably brings valuable insight, street-level reporting and nimble writing to the table. He’s the worldly New Yorker who helps us make sense of all the weirdness going on about us.’’
It is also telling that along the way, Clyde was called upon for some special assignments, including writing a daily synopsis of 9/11-related articles for A Nation Challenged sections and providing the introduction for a Times book about the 20th century in Times Square.
“Through the decades,’’ Clyde wrote in that introduction, “Times Square has been exotic, erotic, neurotic and sometimes just plain idiotic. But one thing Times Square has never been, not once in all the years, is dull.’’ Neither has someone else we know.
Since May, Clyde has written a four-day-a-week online column called The Day for Metro’s City Room blog. The good news is that even after he leaves The Times, he’ll continue to write that column three days a week on a freelance basis. Look for it on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Carolyn Ryan invites everyone to please join Metro in toasting Clyde on Monday, Dec. 19, at 4:45 p.m.
Jon Landman, the paper’s Culture editor, on Culture Writer Andrea Stevens:
December 16, 2011 – Art of Retiring
It’s safe to say that Andrea Stevens is not the kind of person who craves attention. Actually, she loathes it. Which is why it is only today, on the last of more than 9,000 days she has worked at The New York Times, that she is willing to let everyone know she is taking the buyout and leaving. No cake. No bubbles. Read more in this note from Jon Landman.
How do you measure how much she’ll be missed? What’s the value of unparalleled experience, knowledge, taste and judgment? Of humanity, humor and dignity? The question answers itself.
Andrea is unique, and also a model: The kind of person who makes The Times at its best The Times at its best. For me, her departure will feel like the loss of a close relative or friend. I’ll look up and she won’t be there. I’ll feel the emptiness. I know I won’t be alone.
George Gustines, managing editor of T Magazine, on T executive editor Andy Port:
Going Out in Style
Andy Port, T’s executive editor, is retiring, though that word rings a bit false if you know what boundless energy she has. Read more in this note from George Gustines.
She began working at the magazine in December 1992, when T: Women’s Fashion and T: Men’s Fashion were known as Fashion of The Times or the Part 2s, T: Travel was The Sophisticated Traveler, T: Design was Home Design and “the Web site” was an unclean corner of the fashion closet.
She has worked with a League of Extraordinary Style Editors, including Carrie Donovan, Amy Spindler, Holly Brubach, Stefano Tonchi and Sally Singer.
Andy has always been part mentor, part den mother to many of the fashion, style, food and design editors who have walked the halls of the magazine. I asked one of them to wax poetic about everything Andy. The response came almost immediately. Many thanks to Maura Egan for saying it so well:
“An Andy story? Well, God, there are hundreds. She and Amy Spindler used to refer to themselves as Laverne and Shirley. I think Andy was Shirley. They were mad and marvelous together. She’s terrible at faxing and e-mail still to this day. Her office is a mess, which is always the sign of a great editor. I think she got fired from some paper (The Daily News?) because she put Al Sharpton in a Santa Claus suit for the gift guide one year. She loved working the graveyard shift there as well.”
“She eats like a bird but loves sweets. She covets clothes but likes bargains — she was the one who discovered the treasure trove of Rick Owens at the Bay Ridge Century 21 one summer. She believes the only way to truly enjoy reading is in the supine position — God bless her!
(She’s also the only person I know who could use that word correctly. And that’s why she’s the most amazing editor in the world, besides being like frighteningly good at display type. Look up the story “O Madonna Had a Farm,” Fashion of the Times, Feb. 24, 2002.)”
“Andy is a true wordsmith, though her French pronunciation is terrible. She loves her son, Max, more than anything in the world and she’s probably tickled that he’s finally getting married. Oh, and when she says she is losing her memory, it’s a lie. She never had it!”
We will have a champagne toast for her on Friday at 3 p.m. outsider her office.
Joe Sexton, Sports editor for the Times, on Sports columnist George Vecsey:
December 15, 2011 – Sports of The Times; Man for The Times
Joe Sexton writes: Sometimes you sit at the screen and freeze — intimidated, suddenly suspicious of your talent for expression. That’s how I feel right now, because I simply don’t possess the gifts capable of paying adequate tribute to George
So, I’ll take it one word at a time:
Okay, I’m loosening up a bit here. Seriously, George Vecsey, who will glide like a soccer striker into something like semi-retirement from The New York Times this week, has been a model Timesman for more than four decades, a journalist of range, a columnist of confidence and purpose and modesty, too, an author of books of real scholarship and total daring, a colleague of warmth and loyalty. He has been everywhere on this planet in pursuit of stories or columns, and always, at every stop, in the service of dialogue and debate and something quite like enlightenment. He and I are talking of ways to make sure his reporting and voice and values continue to appear in our pages, and I have no doubt we will in the new year devise a plan that excites him and reassures his many fans. He’s keeping his e-mail. He still has the keys to the joint. He knows he has friends for life
His courage, though, will be what sticks with me. He wrote the Sports of The Times column for 30 years. I know he loved every minute of it, or many more minutes than not. But damn, that’s some kind of glorious grind, a run of ideas and inspiration and deadline calm and “What’s My Next Column?” panic, and plain personal fortitude and personal patience. An astonishing accomplishment in bravery alone.
He has my thanks; he has the admiration of this institution; I am sure he has more affection among his compatriots than he could even guess at, or that most humans could hope for.
George, in a column that will run Saturday, will reflect on all that. And it’ll be a hell of a lot better written than this. But, I can tell you, no more heartfelt.
Jodi Rudoren, Education editor for the Times, on Education reporter Sam Dillon:
December 15, 2011 - A New Course
Sam Dillon, the longtime dean of the education desk and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, is taking the buyout. Read more in
this note from Jodi Rudoren.
Sam joined The Times in 1992 from the Miami Herald. He immediately tackled one of the paper’s most difficult and demanding beats, the New York City public schools — his first story, which ran on the front page, noted that local schools were marking the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World with “skepticism” and “contempt.” Sent to Mexico City a few years later, he left behind a source list that has been passed down through generations of local schools reporters. In Mexico, of course, he shared the 1997 Pulitzer in International Reporting for penetrating investigative stories on what the jury described as “the corrosive effect of drug corruption.”
It was, in some sense, a reprise — in 1987, Sam was part of a Herald team that won in National Reporting for “exclusive and persistent coverage of the Iran-Contra affair.” At the Herald, Sam had been posted in San Salvador, Managua and Rio. At The Times, upon returning from Mexico, he spent nine years traveling to schools across the country — including in Rock River, Wyo., where he told the story of Cozy Hollow Elementary, a school comprised of a single teacher and a single student.
It is difficult to imagine the education desk without Sam, the stalwart, sober voice with the exhaustive source and story list, the intricate understanding of policy and sophisticated sense of politics. Sam is the consummate professional, a generous colleague who never tires of welcoming newbies, devoted to getting the story behind the story, and to getting it right. The week before he decided on the buyout was Sam at his best: On Tuesday he led the newspaper with an enterprising, data-driven look at the explosion of students registered for free lunch programs around the country, and on Saturday he turned
an under-the-radar announcement by the Obama administration into a front-page news piece about a shift in affirmative action policy. He complained neither that the first one sat in the queue for a couple of weeks nor that the second one was technically on someone else’s beat and he had to turn it around late on a Friday afternoon; he did both sharply, succinctly, and with his signature dry wit.
A German major at the University of Minnesota, Sam plans to study the language further at NYU starting in January, and to spend some time in Berlin later in 2012. The author of two well-received books, on the Contras and on Mexico, we hope to see Sam’s byline appear from time to time as a freelancer.
Please join us Friday at 5:15 to toast his many accomplishments, by the education pod on the Port Authority side of the 3rd floor.
Barbara Strauch, Deputy Science Editor for the Times, introducing Science reporter/editor Nicholas Wade:
December 14, 2011
The Science of Retirement
Nicholas Wade, who joined The Times as an editorial writer in 1982, then in 1990 took a seven-year turn as Science Editor, before returning to writing about everything genetic, how humans became human, not to mention how we can live forever — or not — has decided to turn in his official staff hat and take a buyout.
We will not lose the brain under that hat, however, as Nicholas has agreed to write for us from time to time, and visit often. He has, as one of his last staff assignments, summed up his time at the paper, as only he can.
And Mr. Wade:
I joined the paper in 1982 as an editorial writer covering science and the environment. Writing editorials is quite hard because once you’ve given both sides’ positions you then have to come to a conclusion, or the editorial gets returned to you with a curt note saying “Yes, but where do we stand?”
Scientific issues are particularly difficult to develop an editorial position on. But I know I was right in my editorials on whether or not to build the Superconducting Super Collider, an enormous atom smasher then planned for Texas. I wrote one editorial for it, one straddling the fence, and one against it.
On days when the scientists were doing nothing much, I’d write editorials on defense. This was during the era of the Reagan military buildup, a target too large to miss. There was the M1 tank that broke down more often than one could fill it up with gas. And it only did half a mile per gallon anyway. There was the radar-guided anti-aircraft gun that zoomed in on whirring helicopter blades but would also blast out the fan in nearby latrines.
The editorial board is fun because lots of interesting people come through New York hoping to talk to The Times. But the news side is mostly too busy to see them, so they end up talking to a handful of editorial writers, who get themselves a wonderful free education.
After 10 years of Olympian thumb-sucking, I descended to the news floors, becoming science editor in 1990. There I had the rude realization that instead of seeing what the news was by looking in the newspaper, I had to decide what it was myself, that being the function of editors. Science Times in those days depended heavily on its distinctive and eye-catching graphics. Once the story carrying the art lede was decided upon, one could relax for the rest of the week, or at
least until the lede art proved unusable.
My predecessors had to submit the week’s art lede to Abe Rosenthal, who would scrutinize it for phallic symbols and sometimes demand that the art be redrawn without the offending elements. But Abe’s day had passed and his successor, Max Frankel, who had been my editor on the editorial board, allowed me free rein with the section.
An editor’s life is interesting, because you get to see what goes on in the rest of the paper, but it is also tiring. For lack of reporting and engagement with life outside the paper, one’s intellectual capital is not replenished and rapidly trends toward zero. After the ritual seven years I returned to writing. Science is a great beat because there is always something new. The problem is that most scientific discoveries turn out in the long run to be wrong or dead ends. You just have to spot the stories that won’t blow up in your face immediately.
Several years ago I calculated that I had written a million words for The Times. Enough daily journalism — I’m now going to switch to books.
Terry Schwadron, Editor for Information and Technology at the Times, on News Research Supervisor Barclay Walsh:
December 14, 2011 – Looking Up New Things
Barclay Walsh, the longtime News Research supervisor in the Washington Bureau is leaving The Times on Friday. As she says,
she’s got loads of projects to pursue outside of The Times, including more travel. Read more in this note from Terry Schwadron.
Over 24 years, Barclay’s encyclopedic recall of names and positions within the worlds of Washington are well-respected and sought after, particularly for the obscure fact or that one journal article from the pre-electronic era. One Washington editor said that Barclay was Google before there was Google. A specialty: knowledge of the paper trails left by individuals and government agencies that could provide perspective and essential documentation.
She has been particularly proud of stories in recent years that probe into the mists of intelligence gathering, lobbying activities and congressional relationships in the business world. Her credits span some of our most intricate investigative efforts from the bureau.
One of Barclay’s continuing efforts has been to identify and test new electronic sources of usable information, leading this year to adding a subscription to a research company tracking lobbyist activities. At the same time, she worked to maintain a physical library and managed book and periodical acquisitions.
In the last year, she handled hundreds of research requests from reporters in Washington and New York, often sharing work with fellow researchers in New York. It is a research staff that has diminished in number, but still handles about 6,000 research inquiries a year.
Her quick laugh and good humor, her dedicated research work ethic, cooperative spirit and her understanding of what is needed to make reporting better will be missed.
David writes: Please join us downstairs — on Barclay’s home turf — at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, when we will celebrate her 24 years at The Times and wish her well.
Alan Robertazzi, Deputy Director of News Design for the Times, introducing News Design Editor Donald Parsons:
December 13, 2011
A True Layout Champ Retires
It is with mixed emotions that we bid farewell to Donald Parsons. For almost 30 years and through countless production
systems, Donald has been a stalwart in the Art Department, working in news design, graphics and as an art director before settling into his current job as our expert in all things CCI. Read more in this note from Alan Robertazzi.
I once jokingly referred to Donald as the world’s foremost authority on CCI. Then I found out that he was actually conducting seminars for CCI users at their annual conference, showing them tricks that even some of them didn’t know.
He is truly irreplaceable, and we’ll miss him dearly.
Here’s his story, in his own words:
I first came to The New York Times in 1981 and did page layouts on what was then called the makeup desk. I was assistant to the editor for the national edition at the time I left after six and a half years (the first of two breaks). After working a year at a ski lodge in Taos, New Mexico, I returned — this time for a four-year stint as a graphics editor. Then it was back to New Mexico for three years at the Albuquerque Journal before my current assignment here in news design. Before coming to New York, I worked for the company in Florida for five years at The Ledger in Lakeland and at The Gainesville Sun.
I will miss working with such a talented and professional group of people in News Design and Pagination and all of my other colleagues in the newsroom. The first thing I have planned is a trip to Florida in April for opening day of the Miami Marlins new stadium. I’m going to keep busy with a number of projects I have planned inside and outside my house in the Poconos.
The newsroom is invited to toast Donald at 4:45 p.m. Friday at his desk on the third floor near the coffee cart.
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