Last Friday, New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson addressed the newsroom troops in a town hall meeting. The semi-annual event, known as “Throw Stuff at Bill” under her predecessor Bill Keller, had been rebranded: “Grill Jill.”
“The past few months have been a time of tremendous creative energy in our newsroom, sadness and some tension,” her remarks began.
Times reporters have been without a contract for more than a year and some of them say morale is an historic low. The Newspaper Guild that represents them is engaged in a protracted and contentious battle over the company’s pension plan—a crucial retention incentive and a staggering legacy cost—that has dialed up the normal grumblings of know-it-all newsmen to an impassioned fever pitch.
Reporters signed open letters criticizing chairman, publisher, Ochs heir and acting CEO Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., and were filmed protesting the sacrosanct Page One meeting. Pulitzer Prize-winners Amy Harmon, Dan Barry and Kevin Sack appeared in a video put out by the Guild that publicly reminded management that Bloomberg, Reuters and the Huffington Post pay competitively and—having already lured an unprecedented number of Times reporters to their digital shores—win fancy prizes now too.
Before that, a long-simmering e-mail chain among a couple hundred senior reporters bubbled over into Gawker’s pages. The site published one especially vivid installment in which science reporter Don McNeil accused Mr. Sulzberger of dilettantish leadership, citing his Himalayan excursion with leadership guru Michael Useem. Read More