Memo: Bill Keller Asks: How Quickly Can You 'Reimagine' Yourself In Another Job?

Meanwhile, more job cut news, this time back on Eighth Avenue!

Bill Keller sent out a memo this afternoon digging through some bad news. He said that Times staffers have until March 5 to voluntarily accept a buyout so that they can ease their way into retirement (which is exactly what Linda Greenhouse is doing with her $300,000 buyout) or to "reimagne" a new career outside the newsroom.

If there aren’t enough buyout offers (and surely there wont’ be–word inside is these packages are not that great!) then layoffs are on the way. Also, he mentioned on Valentine’s Day that the paper’s leadership would share in the pain, which means: Non-guild employees who are up for a management raise will not take that raise.

Here’s the memo:

To the newsroom

It was only two weeks ago that I told all of you that we were flying into some pretty rough economic weather, and warned that we would have to reduce the newsroom staff by roughly 100 jobs. I promised we would move quickly to get through this sad obligation. Here is where things stand:

I am announcing this afternoon that we will be mailing out buyout packages in the coming days to every excluded — that is, non-Guild –employee in the newsroom, from Masthead editor to confidential secretary, seeking volunteers for a severance package of up to a year’s salary plus a one-time incentive exit bonus. While I cannot guarantee we will accept every applicant — some job functions are too critical to our enterprise at this time — I promise we will entertain as many applicants as possible.

Coupled with an existing appeal for buyout candidates already on the table from the Newspaper Guild, my hope and ambition is that we will manage to reduce our staffing numbers to the level we require without having to resort to layoffs. That is, enough of you will see some personal advantage in volunteering to accept a severance package as a way to transition smoothly into retirement, or to re-imagine your career outside the newsroom.

But I want to be clear that if we are unable to reduce our payroll through buyouts, coupled with a hiring freeze, we will have to move to layoffs.

We announced about a dozen reductions in December, when we let go a group of secretaries, clerks and the recording room staff. Otherwise, we have managed our newsroom budget in a way that has enabled us to avoid the drastic cutbacks we have seen at so many newsrooms — and on the business side of our own newspaper.

But with advertising revenues continuing to slip and the prospect of a recession, we have no choice. My hope, and the company’s, is that we have calibrated the staff cuts now so that we can do this once, and move on with confidence.

If you are excluded — not in the Guild — or a foreign correspondent, a buyout package that spells out the details of the offer will be mailed to your home in the first week of March. The scale of your package will depend, of course, on your years of service
with the company. Once you receive the package, you have 45 calendar days to decide whether to apply for the buyout.

If you are in the Guild and you are considering whether to take the buyout, you need to request a buyout package from the Guild office no later than Wednesday, March 5. Once you receive that package, you will have 45 calendar days to decide whether to apply. Requesting a package from the Guild office does not, by itself, commit you to taking the
buyout, so if you are thinking about whether to apply, you should request the package and give yourself the 45 days in which to make the decision.

When I spoke to the newsroom on February 14, I said that when there is sacrifice — as there is now — the leadership of the newsroom would share in it. After consulting the masthead and department heads, and with their strong support, I have decided that all non-Guild employees who are eligible for a management bonus this year will forego any raise in pay. The money that would have gone for annual raises will be used primarily to spare some of the jobs that would otherwise have to be eliminated.

I’m grateful for your patience and understanding, and I am confident that we will weather this storm.

Bill Keller

Memo: Bill Keller Asks: How Quickly Can You 'Reimagine' Yourself In Another Job?