The New York Times is scrambling to quell a staff rebellion at its metro desk after the section’s editor, Cliff Levy, unleashed a blistering email to staffers last week, saying the section had “lost its footing” and was in need of “urgent” change.
The News Guild of New York, which represents the 40-plus journalists in the section, called Levy’s memo a “public fragging” by Times management and said his offer of “voluntary” buyouts as the section became more web-focused was “an unexpected threat to our journalism and our jobs.”
In a bid to defuse anger in the ranks, top brass showed up for a town hall meeting Friday afternoon, including the newish publisher, AG Sulzberger, executive editor Dean Baquet, CEO Mark Thompson and Levy, the Pulitzer Prize-winning metro editor whose memo last week triggered the uproar.
In particular, they were forced to defuse concerns about Levy’s allegation that some metro deskers were resistant to adapting to the digital age.
“This public fragging of journalists by a Times manager with a manufactured narrative of staff obstinacy — should make every decent member of management cringe,” the guild said in a late-Thursday memo to its members. “It has been met with disgust by rank-and-file journalists across the newsroom.”
Sulzberger — in an admission that surprised many of the some 125 Times staffers who gathered for the meeting on the 15th floor of the Times headquarters in Midtown — revealed that he had read the memo before it went out.
“He said it didn’t land in his brain the same way it landed in the collective mind of the metro desk,” said one insider who attended the meeting. “He didn’t see it for what it became — the bomb that impugned our reporting,” the insider added.
The existence of the memo was unveiled in The Post’s Media Ink column Oct. 9.