The New York Times’ Metro section is facing buyouts and management has called for “urgent” changes to coincide with the digital era, but a key labor union, NewsGuild of New York, intends to make sure Gray Lady executives play nice when the paper’s local section is revamped.
“Management aren’t the only individuals who want to bring vibrancy to the metro desk, so do the reporters and editors who've made the section the solid, award-winning beat that it is at the Times. We intend to hold the New York Times to its word in respecting its employees, their contract and acknowledging the value these workers have given and will continue to give to the Times’ brand,” a NewsGuild spokesperson told Fox News.
The New York Post reported last week that Times leadership was “scrambling to quell a staff rebellion” amid chaos among staffers in the Metro section. Back on Oct. 5, Pulitzer Prize-winning Metro section editor Cliff Levy sent a scathing email to his staffers, stating that the Metro section of the paper has “lost its footing” and needs an “urgent, fundamental change.”
The New York Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Levy's email declared that the Metro section should be a “powerhouse for ambitious journalism” and become a “center for newsroom innovation.” His memo, which reportedly sent shockwaves through the newsroom, warned staffers they were being examined and evaluated.
“Our department remains grounded in a print approach and a print sensibility, often seemingly clinging to the idea that longstanding practices should be enough to get by in the digital era,” Levy wrote. ”I’m very excited about working with you to usher in a new, digital and audience-focused Metro. But I realize that this approach may not be for everyone.”
The leadership of NewsGuild – the union that represents dozens of Metro section staffers – blasted Levy’s memo as a “public fragging” that was "met with disgust by rank-and-file journalists across the newsroom" in a statement distributed internally to Times staffers who are part of the union, a source close to the situation confirmed to Fox News.
Times management sent another memo following Levy’s – that was tweeted by Levy himself – detailing a “dramatic shift” in focus for the metro section leading to buyouts. The memo reiterated that Levy wants to focus more on digital reporting.
“We understand that the evolution might not appeal to all on the current staff. For that reason we are opening up a limited, voluntary buyout program that will be confined to Metro,” executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joseph Kahn wrote.
“There are no plans to offer similar buyouts in any other part of the newsroom,” the memo continued. “This is quite simply an opportunity for anyone on Metro to consider their options in the face of the change that lies ahead.”
Baquet and Kahn said the buyouts are “not intended to reduce the size of Metro,” and “the company is deeply committed to expanding the coverage of New York.”
Publisher AG Sulzberger and CEO Mark Thompson joined Baquet and Levy for a Friday town hall meeting with staffers to address concerns, a source close to the situation told Fox News.
The Metro section covers New York City but has been downsized in recent years. Levy first joined the Times in 1990 and was promoted atop the section in July after overseeing online platforms. “He is viewed as an energetic evangelist of the online-first mentality that The Times has increasingly adopted as it adjusts to the digital age,” Times media correspondent Michael M. Grynbaum wrote when the promotion was announced.
Levy is often mentioned as a candidate to eventually succeed Baquet as the paper’s top editor.