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New York Times to offer employee buyouts, aimed primarily at editors

The New York Times building in New York City.
Getty Images
The New York Times building in New York City.

The New York Times offered buyouts to its newsroom employees on Wednesday, aiming to reduce layers of editing and requiring more of the editors who remain.

In a memo to the newsroom, Dean Baquet, the executive editor, and Joseph Kahn, the managing editor, said the current system of "backfielders" and copy editors — two separate groups who have different tasks before a story is published — would be replaced with a single group of editors who would be responsible for all aspects of a story. Another editor would be "looking over their shoulders before publication."

"Our goal is to significantly shift the balance of editors to reporters at The Times, giving us more on-the-ground journalists developing original work than ever before," they said in the memo.

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The buyouts are aimed primarily at editors, but reporters and others in the newsroom would be free to apply as well, the memo said. Mr. Baquet and Mr. Kahn said that the savings would be used to hire as many as 100 more reporters.

The offer comes as The Times tries to transform from a legacy print operation to a more digitally focused newsroom. Reducing the layers of editing was one of the primary recommendations in an internal study issued in January, called the "2020 Report," that serves as a blueprint for that transformation.

The Times could turn to layoffs if there are not enough volunteers for buyouts, Mr. Baquet and Mr. Kahn said in the memo.

In May, the Times Company reported strong digital growth, including a 19 percent gain in digital advertising revenue.

But those gains were not enough to offset an ongoing, industrywide decline in print advertising, which has historically been the main revenue source for newspaper companies. Print advertising at The Times fell 18 percent in the most recent quarter, causing an overall advertising revenue decline of 7 percent.

The company has increasingly relied on subscription revenue, which spiked as Americans closely followed the United States presidential election in November and the beginning of President Trump's term. The Times added 308,000 net digital-only subscribers in the most recent quarter, the most of any quarter in its history, leading to an 11 percent increase in circulation revenue.

It was the second consecutive quarter of record-breaking subscriber growth, with the last three months of 2016 bringing 276,000 new digital-only subscriptions, more than the additions of 2013 and 2014 combined. The Times now has more than 2.2 million digital-only subscribers.

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