An Open Letter To NYT Staffers: Leave The Plantation And Join Us
Recently, New York Times staffers boldly confronted their institution. In a near outright insurrection, published December 23 as an open letter to their boss, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., 561 staffers and a few retirees signed a declaration of frustration.
We’ve got our own declaration to those Times folks—a way out of this mess.
But first, here’s the text of that open letter, in its entirety:
We, the Guild leadership and many reporters, editors, account managers and other Times employees, Guild members and otherwise, are writing to express profound dismay at several recent developments.
Our foreign citizen employees in overseas bureaus have just had their pensions frozen with only a week’s warning. Some of these people have risked their lives so that we can do our jobs. A couple have even lost them. Many have spent their entire careers at the Times — indeed, some have letters from your father explaining the pension system — and deserve better treatment.
At the same time, your negotiators have demanded a freeze of our pension plan and an end to our independent health insurance.
We ask you to withdraw these demands so that negotiations on a new contract can proceed fruitfully and expeditiously. We also urge you to reconsider the decision to eliminate the pensions of the foreign employees.
We have worked long and hard for this company and have given up pay to keep it solvent. Some of us have risked our lives for it. You have eloquently recognized and paid moving tribute to our work and devotion. The deep disconnect between those words and the demands of your negotiators have given rise to a sense of betrayal.
One of our colleagues in senior management recently announced her retirement from the paper, which is reported to include a very generous severance and retirement package, including full pension benefits.
All of us who work at the Times deserve to have a secured retirement; this should not be a privilege cynically reserved to senior management. We strongly urge you to keep faith with your words and our shared mission of putting out the best newspaper in the world.
WHY A LETTER WON’T DO IT—AND WHAT WILL
New York Timesians, welcome to the real world. In the end, the problem is the ownership of the media. In the end, you work on a plantation. Granted, it is a plush plantation, and there are many benefits, not the least of which is the status it accords.
But you’re very much working for the establishment. And the establishment is looking out for their interests, chiefly, not yours, or ours, no matter how much they try and tell us otherwise.
Why not, in this new world, take a risk to create a better journalism, one not owned by rich people or corporations? Why not get involved with journalism whose only agenda is to figure out what is really going on, and then say so? That gets right to the point of what you discovered in your reporting, without pretending to be above the fray and reporting what powerful, self-interested “sources” tell you as if it is the gospel?
You can see what corporate ownership (even the kind dominated by single families—think Walmart and the Waltons, not just the Sulzbergers and the New York Times) does to journalists: it causes them to hold their fire. News outlets are really too important to democracy and the public interest to let them nestle in the bosom of the rich.
Think of all the times The Times has been wrong, pressing you toward the establishment consensus on stories where you knew that was not the right place to be, journalistically.