Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How Former N.Y. Times News Service Journalists Are Doing (UPDATED)

After seeing a "How former Seattle Post-Intelligencer journalists are doing" post on Romenesko last week, it got me thinking about how my fellow former New York Times News Service colleagues are faring as a whole, just over a year since getting the devastating news that our department was being outsourced to Bangladore Gainesville, Fla.

A recent reunion in the old Times newsroom on 43rd Street -- now dba Bowlmor Lanes(!) -- revealed some surprising details:

  • Out of the 31 people in the department -- which we were told was being completely outsourced except for three managers -- a whopping eight are still employed by The Times, with at least two getting "promotions" in the year since and others making considerable overtime to conduct around-the-clock monitoring of the fledgling Gainesville operation. (That situation is apparently worthy of a whole other post.) Additionally, one moved to work in the Gainesville editing center -- so is employed by the Times in a roundabout way -- AND got a nice severance package. This is to say nothing of the huge -- albeit "one-time" -- expense of buying everyone else out and setting up a separate newsroom in Florida. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy some of my old friends are still gainfully employed, but how any of this adds up to the paper's proposed cost savings is anybody's guess.

  • Of the 22 others, only five now have full-time jobs. And all five took sizable pay cuts.

  • Equally disturbing, two others had full-time jobs in the last year, but have already lost them. Most "comically," one got a new job, then before he even started was told it was going to be outsourced in a year. He went ahead and began working -- only to get laid off a couple months later. He then got hired back -- just until the outsourcing goes through -- because they'd laid off too many people. (You almost have to laugh to keep from crying. WHY are so many kids still enrolling in J-schools?!!!)

  • Four editors moved out of state to former home bases. One was able to get a job at a former employer, while another is still not working while studying for the bar. Another took a year off after having a baby and did some traveling -- with her also-laid-off-by-the-Times husband -- and has just landed a full-time job, while hubby is now a stay-at-home dad.

  • Of the remaining 14, one retired. One had a six-month gig in Paris and is back in New York looking for work. Five have "steady" freelance work. And seven are still looking for something.

    These numbers are pretty grim -- unemployment benefits and part-time work are better than nothing, but people have families, need health benefits -- and the figures don't even take into account a sizable group of part-timers who counted on the Times News Service for their primary paycheck (and got nothing when they left).

    And then there's the untold havoc this whole thing has wreaked on some of our personal lives. (Wait, I take that back. I guess divorce court is pretty "told.") Suffice to say, it's been a challenging year for everyone. Lucky for me, I have landed on my feet -- and am happy to report that I remain "strangely unbitter." (It helps that I've been fortunate enough to land a new full-time position and did some freelance reporting over the summer, writing a bunch of articles and some items that appeared on Page Six.) I'm also fortunate that I still count many of my former colleagues as friends, and that's a role that doesn't appear to be being outsourced anytime soon.

    What I am a year later, however, is disgusted that we live in a world where a paper as great as The New York Times believes it must play a shell game to please stockholders -- there is NO WAY they are saving anything close to what they first promised -- and in the process diminish the brand (grad students editing Times copy in Gainesville? Come on!) while causing undue harm to a group of professionals who were willing to make enormous sacrifices to keep the department intact. And for what, a temporary bump in the stock price? This doesn't make me bitter, it just makes me sad.

    (Follow me on Twitter HERE.)

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    Blobby said...

    I didn't see Judith Miller there. How's she doing? :)

    Jarod Keith said...

    As a j-school student myself, this saddens me deeply. I guess we just need to diversify our skill set, whether it's different styles of writing or just different skills altogether (web design, video, etc.). Good luck.

    EPISTEPHILIA said...

    Absolutely identify with that post. In the media myself and have been seeking a better job for two years. That should read: better pay so I can maybe see a movie in a theater once a month.
    Having written that, I also want to ad this: That Ron fella is cute. Does a guy have a chance with him?

    Unknown said...

    & I'm sure Arthur's offspring still has a job. Was that J-school question rhetorical? Because anyone who doesn't know the answer is worse off they those kids, & which is why the industry, the economy & the country are in the shape they're in. (Feel free to forward the hate mail for that, it might be amusing). Thanks for the update & pics -- was good to see folks & I wish everyone a better New Year! (& thanks for remembering those of us (thankfully) 'off the Twitter grid') Cheers! -- Scott

    Anonymous said...

    I didn't see my former digital news team listed here ..10 of us were laid-off at the start of 2010 by the NYT.

    Susan K said...

    Kenneth, Great blog. I'm sorry, but not surprised, to read the (un)employment roundup.

    Holding a reunion at the 43rd St. Shrine was brilliant.

    Unknown said...

    And how many are going back to school? ;)

    Unknown said...

    That should read: better pay so I can maybe see a movie in a theater once a month.

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    Jim McCaffery said...

    Thanks for the update. I've been wondering how you guys were holding up this past year. Learning that so much talent and experience has been going unused for so long puts my own job-hunting frustration in perspective.

    Peter Rozovsky said...

    And the news service copy has got correspondingly worse.
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