The New York Times newsroom is going to walk out (as I write this) on Thursday because they don’t like the cutbacks in editors (an understandable concern, even if the newsroom denizens offered no alternative) and other personnel reductions the paper is being forced to make in an effort to reduce costs to a survivable level. It’s their plaints, though, that drew my attention. The copy editors group wrote a letter to Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Joseph Kahn in which they said in part,
You often speak about the importance of engaging readers, of valuing, investing, and giving a voice to readers. Dean and Joe: we are your readers, and you have turned your backs on us.
News flash, guys. Baquet’s and Kahn’s readers, the NYT‘s readers, are the customers who pay around $325/yr for a subscription, or more than $500/yr for both print and online subscriptions. You guys get paid to read your boss’ paper in order to make error corrections.
NYT reporters sent a letter to the same targets in solidarity with the copy editors.
Requiring them to dance for their supper sends a clear message to them, and to us, that the respect we have shown the Times will not be reciprocated.
Respect has to be earned, guys. You have a legitimate beef regarding the lack of transparency in personnel moves your paper is making (another part of your letter), but respect has to be earned the same way any honest American earns it: through actual deeds. You guys don’t get respect just because you think you’re special. In particular, you utterly disrespect your readers—those paying customers—when you masquerade unsubstantiated rumors, which you amusingly attribute to “senior officials,” to sources who “are speaking anonymously because they’re not authorized to speak,” and the like, as fact. And you do that while also carefully declining to corroborate those rumors with on-the-record remarks.
Question for you both—and for Baquet and Kahn—when y’all come back to work on Friday (today, as I post this): did anyone notice your absence? Besides the janitors, I mean. Folks like actual customers.