For those who don't already know (my bosses had asked me not to mention it), I've spent the last seven years employed as a staff editor at The New York Times. For a guy who set up his own newspaper in his family's basement back in elementary school, you can imagine what a dream this is. Working in the venerable paper's News Service department -- where stories are edited on deadline for distribution over the newswire and international supplements of The Times are created for papers around the world -- I've witnessed firsthand some of the paper's most celebrated and infamous moments, from the Judy Miller and Jayson Blair scandals -- with the hordes of photographers camped outside the company headquarters and the subsequent fallout that led to the dismissal of Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd -- to the move into the new glamorous Renzo Piano-designed building on 8th Avenue and win of five Pulitzer Prizes in journalism in April, the second-most in the paper's history.
All the while, I've also watched the profession I love take a beating on all ends, as the economy wreaked havoc on advertising and readers steadily migrated to the Web. So while I've savored every minute at The Times, I've always felt like it could end at any given moment. Sadly, yesterday was that day. The second my slot called me on my day off to tell me there was going to be a 5 p.m. staff meeting with our masthead boss (whom we rarely see) that he strongly recommended I come in for, I knew the jig was up. Still, having lived through several rounds of cuts in recent years, we had all come to the realization that there was no viable way for them to cut even one more person without something drastic changing about our workload. Somehow, this provided a strange sense of (false) confidence, something that was shattered in the first sentence of our big boss' announcement as he told us that our ENTIRE DEPARTMENT and all of its editing functions were being outsourced -- to Gainesville. At first I thought I'd misunderstood -- isn't India the normal place to outsource everything? -- but then he explained how The Times planned to train (cheap, nonunion) editors at the company-owned Gainesville Sun to do our jobs at a "substantial savings" to the company. (Our union reps later informed us that apparently letting New York Times copy be edited by non-Times editors is about 50 percent cheaper.)
The Newspaper Guild has the right to make a counteroffer, but obviously there is no way to compete with that. All 30 of us will lose our jobs in two phases between February and May of next year, a "heads-up" that I'm sure many who have been laid off in recent times would have been grateful to have had.
Although it will take some time to process it all (we still don't even have a "last day" or our severance packages ironed out), I feel strangely unbitter about it all. (Of course, check with me again in a year when I'm still unemployed!) It was an experience I will never forget, but I've felt like I was playing a losing game of "Survivor" for so long now that there's a certain element of relief. I know I'll be all right, but it still hurts knowing that the profession I've dedicated my life to is slowly evaporating before my very eyes. Little by little we've come to accept lower standards in media, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. (How soon before there are no editors at all?) What I am most sad about, though, is parting ways with so many talented and caring coworkers, some of whom I consider dear friends. But given my track record I'm sure I will stay close to many of them, just as I have with people from The Arizona Republic, The Orange County Register, PRN and every other place I've worked (what's up, Sherrie, Lois and Mona?).
OK, then. Thanks for listening. Time to get ready for the next phase of my life.
Read the latest update HERE.