The rocky, rickety boat that is the New York times has long been in peril of sinking. Now the Times staffers have sent a letter to publisher Arthur Sulzberger expressing "profound dismay" at the direction the company is headed.
The letter calls attention to several grievances. Last week, Times brass notified foreign citizens employed in the paper's overseas bureaus that their pensions would be frozen. In the letter, Times staffers dismayed by this decision point out to Sulzberger that some of these foreign employees, working alongside Times reporters in war zones, have "risked their lives so that we can do our jobs."
The open letter may have been prompted by this and other recent decisions, but it brought to the surface long-simmering tensions. In the past several years, staffers have faced temporary pay cuts, layoffs, and buyouts. They have worked since March without a new contract. Regarding ongoing negotiations, the letter notes that Sulzberger's "negotiators have demanded a freeze of our pension plan and an end to our independent health insurance." O'Meara said staffers did not receive a raise this year.
Such compensation and benefit issues are playing out while the Times faces a problem with retention, as executive editor Jill Abramson acknowledged when she landed the paper's highest-ranking masthead job last June. The Times, which could once keep high-profile reporters and editors from heading to rival newspapers based on the paper's cachet alone, has recently faced increased competition for top talent from non-traditional outlets, such as Bloomberg News, ESPN, and The Huffington Post.
The letter also mentions that a member of "senior management" is now leaving with "a very generous severance and retirement package, including full pension benefits." Indeed, outgoing CEO Janet Robinson -- the unnamed executive-- will reportedly take home a $15 million exit package, according to Reuters. Times staffers with stock options have seen the share price drop from over $35 at the beginning of Robinson's tenure in 2003 to less than $8 at opening on Tuesday.
One can sympathize with the employees given the pay cuts and benefit givebacks they've been forced into due to the decline of the newspaper. But isn't this sort of like the passengers of the Titanic sending a letter to the captain complaining about the lack of porters to carry their luggage to the lifeboats?