Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

New York Times Employment Columnist Now Unemployed

For the last year and a half, New York Times columnist Marci Alboher wrote about other people’s jobs. Yesterday, she wrote about her own–the one she no longer has at the paper. The Times is dropping her “Shifting Careers” blog:

It is hard to call this a layoff since I’m not an employee of the Times and I will likely still contribute to the paper occasionally. Yet I have been feeling a lot like someone who has been laid off. For starters, I have tried to build a narrative based on the little information that was shared with me by my editors, who have told me they were nearly as surprised as I was about this decision. As in a layoff, the decision was made in response to the economic realities of the media industry, which is a polite way of saying that newspapers are in difficult financial shape.”

The Times (NYT) had a round of layoffs/buyouts earlier in the year, but last month Executive Editor Bill Keller told his troops he would try very hard not to cut anyone else. It seems increasingly clear that Keller will struggle to make good on that pledge, given the Times’s deteriorating  financial picture. But since Alboher wasn’t an actual employee, her canning won’t technically count as a layoff–it just feels like one to her.

The Times has been ramping up its use of columnist/bloggers over the past year, and has brought most of them on as contract workers. I’ve asked the paper if it has made other columnist/blogger cuts recently; no response yet. But it hasn’t made cut any other of its columnist/bloggers, says the NYT’s Catherine Mathis.

As an aside, news of Alboher’s demise reached me via The NYTPicker, which appears to be a month-old blog written by someone who loves the Times so much that they scour the paper each day to write something nasty about it. It’s a sort-of heir to SmarterTimes.com, a now-defunct site that existed solely to point out liberal bias at the paper (its operator, Ira Stoll, moved on to run the now-defunct New York Sun).

Does that sound like something that appeals to you? If so, be warned: NYTPicker won’t be posting for next few days, since its anonymous operator will be traveling to see their folks, who “still subsist on dial-up Internet service.”


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