The New York Times Co said on Wednesday, May 31, that it was offering buyouts to its newsroom employees to streamline production systems and reduce the number of editors.
The newspaper said it would eliminate the in-house watchdog position of public editor as it shifts focus to reader comments.
“Today, our followers on social media and our readers across the internet have come together to collectively serve as a modern watchdog, more vigilant and forceful than one person could ever be,” publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr said in a memo, which was reviewed by Reuters.
The Times is opening up the majority of its articles to comments from readers, up from 10% currently, according to the memo.
The latest round of buyouts will be mostly offered to editors, as the Times seeks to shift the balance of editors to reporters, according to a memo filed with regulators from Dean Baquet, executive editor, and Joe Kahn, managing editor.
“If we do not get enough takers to fund our ambitious plans to reduce the editing staff and hire more reporters, we will unfortunately have to turn to layoffs,” Baquet and Kahn said.
Liz Spayd, the current public editor, will leave the paper on Friday, according to the memo from Sulzberger.
“The one thing an ombud or public editor can almost always do is hold feet to the fire, and get a real answer out of management,” Margaret Sullivan, former public editor at the New York Times, said in a Twitter post in response to the news.
“The role, by definition, is a burr under the saddle for the powers that be,” she said.
The Times said it expected to take a charge of up to $23 million related to workforce reductions, with about $17 million to be recorded in the second quarter.
“I think an ombudsman-like role is vital and I find the Times decision disappointing,” Merrill Brown, former editor-in-chief of MSNBC.com and former director at the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University, said via email.