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An Open Letter to NYT Staffers: Leave the Plantation and Join Us

New York Times boss Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

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:

Dear Arthur:

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.

The Times has exaggerated the importance of things like the Iowa caucuses and primaries in terms of giving the public false confidence they actually have a say in what is an increasingly tenuous democracy. It played a central role in the rush to war with Iraq, and a lack of investigative rigor on the real reasons for intervening in Libya. It has been so terrified of being labeled as “conspiracy theorists” that it has ignored important legitimate reporting on 9/11 and the inconsistent government explanations of the raid that “got” Bin Laden.

It has shown cluelessness on Occupy Wall Street. Its columnists defended a friend instead of investigating him for fraud. It has been excessively soft toward “acceptable” candidates like Mitt Romney and rough on those who would ruffle feathers.

The Times investigates the establishment, up to a point. But in the end, it upholds the establishment. It is a wholly owned subsidiary.

Think of the hoary old discredited memes, like the Warren Report, that the spirit of the place keeps flame for some reason. Think of its preference for bland middle of the road candidates who can do nothing to stop this country’s slide to the bottom. And for “order,” when what we may need, in a country increasingly experiencing corporate-driven chaos, is a little more healthy disorder.

Corporate-owned media has been “in charge” of providing the dominant national narrative, helping us understand where we are and why, and what we can do about it. And how good a job, would you say, it has done, overall? Are things much better after this long reign?

Most of you are fine people—some are my friends—and many of you do great work, or at least the best you are able under certain constraints. But in the end you are on the plantation. You may petition your owner, as you have, but he’s got the upper hand. He certainly isn’t going to give up a lot so that you may keep your pension.

I understand you want to keep your job and your benefits. But does it really feel that good being on the corporate plantation?

Come join us. Ask the deep questions, write whatever you learn. No holds barred. Work in an outfit that takes itself a little less seriously—but takes the truth very seriously indeed.

Help us collect the people and the resources, and build a more perfect journalism.

 

WhoWhatWhy plans to continue doing this kind of groundbreaking original reporting. You can count on it. But can we count on you? We cannot do our work without your support.

Please click here to donateit’s tax deductible. And it packs a punch.

 

GRAPHIC: http://static8.businessinsider.com/image/4bf1437c7f8b9a660d0e0600/new-york-times.jpg


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  • Anonymous

    Is there such a thing as “a perfect journalism” in light of deeply held opinions that divide the country, indeed the world, today.  If your journalism does not coincide with “my opinion”, then you are not to be taken credibly by a very significant part of the populations.  Conspiracy theories don’t have to be true, but their believers will defend them tenaciously despite “perfect journalism”.  They see journalists always as the tool of someone.

    Consider the Holocaust of World War II.  Those of us who were alive in that period, perhaps with relatives who were Nazi victims, consider the Holocaust to be an undeniable fact.  Yet many of today’s adults, age 50 and younger believe the Holocaust to be a political/religious fabrication and the facts, as even ‘perfect’ journalists would report, are not to be believed.  

    With deep dichotomies in historical beliefs, economic principles, health care, political issues, JFK conspiracies, climate/ecology issues, indeed the bases of capitalism that much of the populace holds inviolable and the rest consider obscene, how is a “perfect journalism” to establish credibility?

    Aren’t you the modern-day Don Quixote?

    • leftheaded

      Straw man argument, stockc. You say that many people believe the holocaust to be fabrication? Hogwash. Then you conflate that thinking with “JFK conspiracies,” when most people, incluing the US congress, believed in the presence of a conspiracy to kill JFK? This is a childish argument meant to detract from serious thinking about the topic. 

      • Elicoh

        ummm…dear leftheaded…if many people do NOT think the Holocaust to be fabrication, why on earth do you think this week ISrael moved to make it ILLEGAL to compare things /experiences to the Holocaust? Obviously the Jewish state believes it to be imperiled and slighted, demeaned and downgraded as a human tragic  nadir> what– do you think Holocaust denying is some sort of joke? Really?

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  • Anonymous

    Great article, but I don’t understand why the Warren Commission hyperlinks both take me to your Iowa story.  Your site is one the few that is not part of the spectrum of propaganda that ranges from FOX to Democracy Now.  I have donated some, and will donate more when I can.  Keep up the great work!

    And yes, bizaro comments are terrible.  I think on balance it is best to delete the ones that contribute nothing.  They can give a false impression that a website is frequented by and catering to silly people.

    • Russ Baker

      thanks for notifying us, Eric. The hyperlinks have been fixed.

  • Anonymous

    There are too many *NON* journalists putting opinions out there in the guise of being journalists. Also, there are “sock puppets” stalking the blogs, trying to explain away the truths and trying to undermine reality.  Further, corporate press releases are passing as “news”, these days.

    There’s a crying need to expose the BS and document the reality. If the TIMES gets it wrong, it looks like they’re being someone’s shill. Don’t worry, the Sulzbergers aren’t the only ones with a problem; we’re having trouble with the Pulitzers’ credo here in St. Louis, too.
    Yes, it’s a gigantic problem, getting people and advertisers to pay for documenting the dull reality that exists, and maybe it’s time to invoke a new paradigm.

    The journalists better figure it out and rise to the situation as it exists.

  • Anonymous

    This is the best darn heart felt article I had the privilege to read in a very long time.  It is no wonder I have stopped looking at TV’s so-called news or read any mass media papers.  My only expectation is that others start demanded the same of themselves in what they chose with their dollars to accept as true journalism.

  • David Klemitz

    I think you Americans need to take back you country. If not for yourselves but for the rest of us. Be ready in a Minute.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_75XI574PVHK62VLVC4PW3JIOSU Stop

    This is great. Those journalist really need to do as you ask, because no one trusts the media anymore. People are waking up to it every day, and it will not be long until MSM ( cnn, foxnews, msnbc, ntyimes,etc) will go the way of the dinosaurs.

    • josie

      There are already lots of contrary media–like this one, like TomDispatch, like many others but these are not hooked into the TV mind-f–k, so few of the great unwashed even get that there ARE alternative and investigative sources.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_75XI574PVHK62VLVC4PW3JIOSU Stop

    This is great. Those journalist really need to do as you ask, because no one trusts the media anymore. People are waking up to it every day, and it will not be long until MSM ( cnn, foxnews, msnbc, ntyimes,etc) will go the way of the dinosaurs.

  • Editorsteve

    Interesting phrase on the Times Staffers’ letter. Seems like deceased foreign employees are among those protesting their pension cuts. You’d think all that money the NYT spends would get better editors….

    • Russ Baker

      Good catch, Editor Steve! LOL

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XWHZSW4DCMEJNM6ZY5WFNJL3AY Green

    It is beyond ironic, that New York Times employees would complain about losing their pensions and retirements, when it’s reporters, perhaps some who are complaining, are complicit in the wealthy elite’s global robbery of everyone’s retirements.

    In an article I wrote almost two years ago titled “Your Big Fat Greek
    Retirement”, I exposed how Goldman Sachs used the New York Times to rob
    Greeks of their retirements. 

    It’s like I told a van load of cops who showed up with guns to raid our occupy camp, “After you’re done kicking our asses, the 1% you are serving and protecting,  are gonna fire your asses.”  

  • Anonymous

    They will not join you because they want to stay in the middle class.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_E._Jenner,_Jr.#Controversy Tom Scully

    I laud you for trying, Russ. I fear nearly all of the sheeple who do the reporting and editing at the New York Times will continue to serve the interests of power, instead of finding and printing its secrets and speaking truth to it, until all the pieces are in place, and it  won’t take much longer for that to happen.:
    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2398527,00.asp
    Here Comes the National Internet
    It’s happening in Iran and the U.S. is only a few steps behind.

        John Dvorak By John C. Dvorak
        January 6, 2012

    (Posted in the comments section of the above linked article):

    All the more reason for people to contact their Senators and Congressmen and urge them to oppose PIPA in the Senate and SOPA in the House. The Senate is scheduled to vote on their internet censorship bill on Tuesday, January 24th. Unless 41 senators are willing to block the vote, it is going to pass.

    More info at: http://www.americancensorship….

    Tweet your Senators and Congressmen to oppose these bills at: http://www.demandprogress.org/

    Get Senator Wyden to read your name during his filibuster of the bill at: http://www.stopcensorship.org/

    • josie

      There are some congressmen and women in this government to whom protests are as ho hum as yeserday’s rancid milk. Je refuse.

  • James

    Well said.

  • Anonymous

    People will do almost anything to protect their tenuous hold on reality.  If you believe that the monster you are feeding is really feeding you, then you will paint laudable pictures of the monster’s deeds and ignore the people-eating parts.  
    It is a noble effort to try to clue people in that the letter they wrote – this kind of do-nothing play at resistance which is really just an exercise in whining – isn’t going to change anything.  If you don’t like the system, get out…. or shut up and be eaten.

  • Anonymous

    People will do almost anything to protect their tenuous hold on reality.  If you believe that the monster you are feeding is really feeding you, then you will paint laudable pictures of the monster’s deeds and ignore the people-eating parts.  
    It is a noble effort to try to clue people in that the letter they wrote – this kind of do-nothing play at resistance which is really just an exercise in whining – isn’t going to change anything.  If you don’t like the system, get out…. or shut up and be eaten.

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  • Scottar

    It’s a sign of the times of the new twitter media.  All the news that’s fit to print in 500 words or less.

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