Times‘ Keller: Within Weeks Of Decision On Pay Wall

nyt logo.jpgOne surprising reaction to The New York Timesrecent announcement that it plans to cut 100 newsroom staffers through buyouts and, if necessary, layoffs is some readers’ willingness to pay for the paper’s content online in order to save jobs and maintain its quality.

Over the weekend, the Times‘ public editor Clark Hoyt discussed the paper’s staff cutting plans, seeking answers from executive editor Bill Keller. Acknowledging that some have offered a pay wall as a possible solution to the layoff plans, Keller said, “It’s a much tougher, more complicated decision than it seems to all the armchair experts. There is no clear consensus on the right way to go.”

Explained Hoyt:

“At stake are millions of dollars from online advertisers who want the largest possible number of readers. Putting up any kind of pay wall has the potential to drive away readers and some of those dollars.”

Still, Keller revealed a decision on how the paper will proceed with a pay wall is a few weeks away. Unfortunately, it looks like 100 people will be losing their jobs before a pay model can be unveiled. The realities of the media today is that any income that will come from a paid online content won’t be able to save jobs — at least right away.

According to publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the staff cuts are “meant to address the immediate, short-term realities of our current economic situation,” Hoyt reports, something a pay wall most likely can’t fix. Paid online content will hopefully be more of a long-term solution to filling out the paper’s shrinking revenues.

But after buyouts last year and a five percent pay cut and required furloughs implemented this year, Keller told Hoyt he was trying hard to avoid staff cuts this year. But “under the contract with the Newspaper Guild, the newsroom union, members leaving the company after Jan. 1 would have been entitled to a full year’s vacation pay,” Hoyt explained. With that extra pay, 10 more staffers would have had to lose their jobs if the cuts had happened in 2010.

So in the event that 100 staffers don’t accept the voluntary buyouts offered by the Times, where will cuts come? Hoyt asked Keller to explain:

“He said editors are studying the flow of news copy to see if some editing slots can be eliminated, and they will look at the 70 blogs on the paper’s Web site to see if any are not justifying themselves. More radical moves, like dropping the sports section, have been rejected because they would undermine the quality of The Times or would not save much money, Keller said.

The Times has already made the easier decisions — reducing the support staff, cutting freelance budgets, capping expense-account meals, seeking bargain airfares and hotels, rotating foreign correspondents every five years instead of four, and housing some bureaus in correspondents’ homes rather than downtown offices. The nice car and driver for the London bureau chief? History.”

But readers are worried that these layoffs and money saving cuts will affect the quality of the Times‘s coverage. So we ask you, if the Times is going to cut some of its 70 blogs, which ones should it keep and which should it ditch?

Recession, Revolution and a Leaner TimesNew York Times

Earlier: Memo:Times To Lay Off 100 Newsroom Staffers