MediaFile

Writing for your life at The New York Times

February 5, 2009

Who can blame a print reporter for wanting to get up to speed in the new media world, particularly at The New York Times? With ad revenue down and the future in doubt, it might seem worthwhile for reporters to keep themselves marketable. The union that represents the NYT’s reporters approves, but it suspects that some are making too many concessions. Here are excerpts from the memo:

The financial troubles at The New York Times have many Guild members looking over their shoulders wondering when the next round of layoffs may occur…As a result, many of our members are understandably operating in survival mode and scurrying to find a niche.

In this economic climate, the Guild more than ever encourages members to make themselves as valuable as possible. Embrace the web, which undoubtedly holds the key to our future. …

The Guild has learned that some employees are blogging on their own time, working through the wee hours of the night, with no additional compensation. Some are receiving compensation, but only a small portion of what they are owed. Others are simply getting to leave a couple hours early in exchange for their work on the web. As a result of this “Let’s-Make-a-Deal” environment, some employees are taken care of and others are taken advantage of, which is not what being part of a union is all about. …

Management told the Guild during recent negotiations that they needed more flexibility in the workplace if the company is to survive. The Guild understands that it is in our best interest for the paper to thrive and not be so set in our ways. But at this point, it appears as if our members are the only ones who are being flexible and are giving their services away in the process. If overtime budgets are tight, bloggers should be given time during their normal shift to complete an assignment rather than be expected to do it pro bono or play, “Let’s-Make-a-Deal” with their livelihood. The time has come for management to stop preying on our members’ fear and vulnerability, pay our members what they are worth and schedule them appropriately.

When will those layoffs happen? We’re depending on you, New York Times reporters, to tell us. Tips always welcome.

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