NYT to staffers: “Again,” don’t let the door hit you in the ass


I used to work with an editor who was famous for outrageous and pointless orders. He was a deputy middle-management sort of person, even when, briefly he was promoted to real middle-management, but his silly directives carried a little added authority because he seemed likely, if he were on the receiving end of them to carry them out.

He was as white as copy-machine paper, had a doughy flaccid physique, and thick glasses that magnified the pouches under his eyes. He was in his 40s, it turned out, when I met him, but he looked like a grandpa in the sun room of a nursing home. He was not a healthy or happy looking guy. The seat of his chair, which he vacated only briefly, was stained and crusted with the remnants of meals he had eaten while sitting there. He ate three meals a day at his desk, starting with a breakfast sandwich he carried to his desk from the company cafeteria. All of which helped, when he gave his ludicrous and sadistic instructions on how to report a minor story, you would remember that he was more pathetic than mean-spirited. He was giving his life to the newspaper. He thought that’s what you were supposed to do. So did we. So when, towards the end of your night cops shift, near midnight, when the paper had gone to bed, and then a dispatch went over the police radio that about a domestic call in which a man might be armed, he would amble over. “You’re going to want to go there,” he would say, “and see what’s going on, until, say, 2:30 in the morning.” Once, when scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were in town to investigate the Anthrax attacks, he ordered me to chase them in my car, so I could report on everything they did while here. That kind of thing. Stupid, a lot of the time, but with one common theme: You were supposed to do whatever was necessary, and certainly whatever your superiors told you to do, in the service of collecting the news and getting it to the readers. It was like the army, at wartime — it was a mission, and you were part of a whole carrying out that mission. Your own life: the missed meals, lost family time, depleted energy were not to be figured into that equation. So while I did flat out refuse to stand outside the domestic disturbance until 2:30 in the morning that one time, most of the time, you did what he said, because that was how newspapers function.

What kept us from feeling like total patsies in that arrangement is that our newspaper offered phenomenal job security, enticed you to stay, yes, even threw a big dinner and gave Rolexs every year on employee’s 20th anniversary, then offered life insurance and a pension once you were 55, along with your 401K. So in exchange for giving it your all, you got security, maybe not a completely equitable exchange, but one freely made.

Which made a lot of us feel like patsies a few years ago when we all got an email saying nearly all of use were superfluous, and that anyone who didn’t accept the buyout offer risked getting laid off. Additional treachery made that even harder to swallow – like the discovery that a select handful of exceptionally unproductive friends of the bosses were quietly told they could stay, which a human resources woman told me couldn’t possibly have happened because that was illegal – except it did happen.

So, in spite of the improvement that leaving the newspaper brought to many of our lives, we couldn’t help but feel had.

All of that, however, pales, in comparison to the rude, snitty, supercilious “answers” to Frequently Asked Questions that someone at the New York Times company had the appalling indecency to send to employees of its regional papers the day after they discovered they had been sold out.

Here are some of the manifestations of utter contempt for the hardworking employees who were, I’m guessing already feeling a little dissed by having given no notice this was coming:

(Note the lack of useful information in the answer to “question” number 3 — bearing in mind these are literally hypothetical questions, one that the human resources department guessed would be asked — followed by the snotty-sounding “again”  to number 4. )

3. How many employees will be retained by Halifax?

That decision will be made by Halifax, but they have committed to making offers of employment to the vast majority of employees. You will be notified within the next 48 hours whether the buyer will be offering you employment.

4. What is the process for determining who will be hired?

Halifax has decided who it will hire. Again, you will be notified within the next 48 hours whether the buyer will be offering you employment. The New York Times Company has not been involved in that decision.

11. Should I plan to look for another job?

We cannot advise employees on their personal, professional decisions.

Huh? Then why’d you ask? You posted this, not the employees. Nasty.

Read it. It’s sickening – if the staffers who received this had brought this kind of indifference to standards of performance to their job as the person who signed her name to this blowoff, this would be justice. Otherwise, it’s an outrage.


There are no comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: