Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Why Tim Page Took That Buyout

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Why Tim Page Took That Buyout

Article excerpt

In the past week several newspaper companies or individual dailies have announced job cuts to come, with forced layoffs -- not merely voluntary "buyouts" -- a certainty in most cases. The buyout era, which had dominated the cutback arena for years, now seems like a more innocent, and relatively benign, time.

The buyout binge at American newspapers, now several years running, really took off this spring. Criticism, fairly muted in the past, rang louder in May when the names attached to the latest round at The Washington Post were released. This came in tandem with word -- quite accurate, it turned out -- that longtime Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., who had just guided the paper to six Pulitzers, might soon be asked to move along by the Post's new publisher, Katharine Weymouth.

While outsiders focused on stars like David Broder and Thomas

Ricks exiting the Post, insiders lamented that so many section editors and other behind-the-scenes crisis managers -- you know, the ones who actually get the paper out every morning -- were also leaving en masse. Weymouth described this "sea change" in a mid-May memo to staffers, admitting that the "coming months will be tough as we figure out how to restructure and compensate for the loss of our departing colleagues. We must and will find new ways to do things." She added, "Over the next few weeks and months, we will be saying goodbye to many well-loved and respected colleagues. We will miss you."

Buyouts -- which could also be called "buying time" -- are popular for management because they are "voluntary" and reduce or eliminate the need for pure layoffs, at least for a while. Yet, in some cases, employees are told, directly or by inference, that they had better take the package now, or they may soon be axed without that sort of hefty compensation. So how voluntary, in many cases, is it?

Even so, I am always surprised to see so many high achievers, still in their early to mid-50s, happily grab the buyout deal. I decided to ask one of them about that.

Tim Page won a Pulitzer in 1997 for his classical music criticism for the Post. Before joining the paper he covered the same subject for The New York Times, and has written several books. "I'm 53 years old," he told me from his home in Balitmore, "and I have now been bought out by two different newspapers." The first was Newsday in 1995, when he was just 40.

Page revealed that he is leaving the Post "with a great deal of gratitude. …

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