Steven Greenhouse Leaves The New York Times, As Newspapers' Labor Beat Keeps Shrinking

Will The New York Times Cover Labor Full-Time?

NEW YORK -- New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse announced Tuesday night that he's accepted a voluntary buyout, a departure which leaves the Wall Street Journal as the only daily newspaper with a full-time labor reporter.

Greenhouse, who spent 31 years at the Times, is regarded as the dean of the labor beat. While Greenhouse said he plans to continue covering labor issues -- he's writing on a book for Knopf on workers, and said he hopes to freelance for the Times -- it's unclear whether the paper will assign someone to the beat full-time.

A Times spokeswoman told The Huffington Post that the question of how the paper will cover labor issues is not likely to be settled until early 2015.

The Times is currently seeking 100 voluntary buyouts, and may lay off some staff in the coming weeks if it's unable to reach its target. Capital New York is keeping a running count of buyout-takers, a group that includes Times journalists with decades of experience.

"Departures will necessitate reassignments in various places around the newsroom and those decisions will be taken up when this process concludes," the spokeswoman said.

Politico, seeing an opportunity in the reduction of labor coverage around the country, hired several journalists to launch a subscription-based vertical in October to cover workplace regulations, legislation and industry developments. Bloomberg BNA has already been covering much of this ground for a similarly niche, and paying, audience. The Huffington Post also employs a dedicated labor reporter.

But the labor beat at daily newspapers has contracted alongside the industry, with the The Wall Street Journal's Melanie Trottman now the only other reporter assigned full-time.

During a September interview with NPR's "On The Media," Greenhouse recalled a time when newspapers such as The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times all had beat reporters, and that some major labor events now draw only a sparse attendance. Greenhouse mentioned seeing around 15 daily newspapers represented at AFL-CIO meetings in the mid-1990s, but that more recently on some occasions, he's been the only newspaper reporter on hand.

In the NPR interview, Greenhouse stressed that the labor beat stretches beyond union issues, since roughly 150 million Americans go to work and would likely be interested in stories on shifting wages, disappearing pensions, bullying bosses, paid sick leave, and retirement. Greenhouse said there are "many, many important, not necessarily union, but workplace-related issues that millions of workers are terribly interested in, and I think they would love to see their newspapers writing more about them."

In an email sent Tuesday night to Times staffers, Greenhouse said his decision to leave was "one of the toughest decisions of my life." Greenhouse also praised his colleagues and urged them to "keep on keeping on with your wonderful journalism -- and holding all those damn folks accountable."

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