New York Times Staff Fights Back Against Planned Copy Editor Cuts

A letter yesterday, a walkout today

Yesterday, New York Times copy editors, union members who are part of the NewsGuild, wrote a letter directed to executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joseph Kahn about the plan announced at the end of last month to flatten the paper’s layers of editors, merging copy editing duties and content editing duties into one role. The letter was a response to the plan, but also to the reinterview process for the re-conceptualized positions that was already underway.

The letter had an early ask, for the Times to lower the number of positions it plans to cut, which, according to the letter, would represent more than half of the current copy editors. “Cutting us down to 50 to 55 editors from more than 100, and expecting the same level of quality in the report, is dumbfoundingly unrealistic. Work with us on a new number,” they wrote.

Today, Times reporters, editors and other staff are showing their support for the copy editors by staging a walkout. The walkout will begin at 3 p.m. ET at The New York Times building on 242 West 41st Street.

“Editors, reporters and staff are leaving the newsroom today in a show of solidarity and support,” said Grant Glickson, president of the NewsGuild of New York. “As both the copy editors and reporters stated in their letters to executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joseph Kahn, eliminating copy editors will be detrimental to the Times’ brand. This is devastating for our members, not only because many of them might lose their jobs, but because with less editors acting as the watch dog, the reputation of reporters–the reputation of the newsroom–is on the line.”

As Glickson referenced, reporters issued their own letter this morning. “Like nearly everyone we know in the newsroom, we believe that the plan to eliminate dozens of editing jobs and do away with the copy desks is ill-conceived and unwise, and will damage the quality of our product,” they write. “It will make us sloppier, more error-prone. It will undermine the reputation that generations have worked to build and maintain, the reputation that keeps readers coming back.”

You can read the full text of the letters below.

From reporters:

Dear Dean and Joe,

We write to you as the saved – those whose copy, facts and sometimes the intelligibility of a sentence or two have been hammered into shape by our friends and colleagues on the editing desks. Our editors ask smart questions, engage passionately with our copy, and serve as our safety nets. Editors – and yes, that especially means copy editors – save reporters and The Times every day from countless errors, large and small.

Copy and backfield editors, producers and photo editors work in concert with one another and with the rest of us to make The New York Times the best-written and best-edited daily newspaper in the world. As hundreds of thousands of new subscribers join us for the first time, we’re left at a loss by our newspaper’s intent on hacking off one of its own arms.

Like nearly everyone we know in the newsroom, we believe that the plan to eliminate dozens of editing jobs and do away with the copy desks is ill-conceived and unwise, and will damage the quality of our product. It will make us sloppier, more error-prone. It will undermine the reputation that generations have worked to build and maintain, the reputation that keeps readers coming back. You are reducing the number of people doing the work of editing, which would be harmful enough in itself. But you plan to take work away from people who do it well, and give it to people who have not developed the same skills, and who are already over-burdened.