More Layoffs at The NY Times: The Effect on Quality Journalism

The New York TimesAccording to the Associated Press, The New York Times has just laid off another 18 newsroom employees. This year will be the second straight year the company has cut 100 employees from its newsroom.

Obviously it’s a tough time to be in the newspaper business. Online news publishing has really shaken things up over the past few years, and most likely will continue to do so for years to come. But how do newsroom layoffs, in an increasingly digital news world, affect the quality of journalism for news outlets like The NY Times?

In his post, Doing Less With Less: What Are You Willing to Give Up from Journalism?, TIME’s columnist and blogger James Poniewozik suggests that the main impact is on quality control. He talks specifically about the laid off copy editors: “You get what you pay for… No one is going to copyedit [The] New York Times on a volunteer basis for the pleasure of it.”

Since newspapers now have less money, journalistic standards are bound to suffer. So, Poniewozik asks, what are the readers willing to accept? Are a misspelled word here, a grammatical error there acceptable when someone pays a couple hundred bucks a year for a subscription?

Jon Donley, found­ing Editor-in-Chief of NOLA.com, acknowledges (in the post’s comments section) the importance of having copy editors:

Don’t discount copy editors as mere proof-readers. They are the last line of defense for a newsroom, catching not only typos, but also major and minor factual errors and holes in stories.

While laying off journalists and editors has its consequences when it comes to maintaining high journalistic standards, Donley, who was laid off in February 2009 after 30 years in the business, addresses what’s perhaps a bigger problem:

Per-capita newspaper circulation has been in decline since the 1950s… I launched my first newspaper web site thinking I was building a bridge to help my industry survive. Unfortunately, the industry has focused its resources on salvaging the print factory, rather than journalism. Experienced journalists, and now even web operations, are being cannibalized to keep the presses rolling, at the expense of journalism itself.

Donley brings up the issue of focus. Do newspapers try so hard to keep one foot in print and another online, that they end up with a less than stellar effort on both platforms?

SOURCE: “NY Times lays off 18 workers in newsroom cutbacks,” 12/17/09
SOURCE: “Doing Less With Less: What Are You Willing to Give Up from Journalism?” 12/16/09
Photo courtesy of paalia, used under its Creative Commons license.

About David Reich

David Reich is co-founder and CEO of SixEstate, blending a background in traditional marketing and public relations with over 5 years of experience managing hundreds of online marketing campaigns for all kinds of organizations — from small businesses and nonprofits to public companies. David is responsible for keeping SixEstate and its clients at the forefront of the rapidly evolving search and content marketing landscape. Connect with David on Twitter, Google+ or via email.

  

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  1. Wow, what a post!

    Jon Donley was a speaker on the subject of online crisis communications at the International Association of Online Communicators annual conference in 2006, where he described how NOLA.com was used to locate and rescue stranded Katrina victims. He’s a legend in newspaper web sites.

    I feel bad for the newspapers. They’re losing advertisers, not because newspaper advertising doesn’t work, but because it’s not trackable.

    It’s my sincere hope that SixEstate can continue to hire these writers to produce quality journalism for private organizations.

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