While the news of the New York Times‘ latest slew of staff layoffs may not have come as much of a surprise, many were shocked to discover who would be receiving the axe. In particular, we were utterly confused as to why George Freeman, the Times’ longtime assistant general counsel and champion of First Amendment Rights (also, full disclosure: former professor to a couple of us here at The L) would be losing his job. We weren’t the only ones. Capital New York reports that 57 NYT journalists have penned a letter to Arthur Sulzberger Jr., urging the publisher and CEO of the Times Company to reconsider his decision to fire Freeman.
Read the letter below.
We were saddened and dismayed to hear that the round of layoffs announced last week would include George Freeman.
Many of us have worked with George during his 31 years at the Times, and we like him, respect him and admire him. Time and again, he has gone to bat intelligently, fearlessly and articulately for Times journalists against all sorts of threats from people and institutions we have written the truth about.
Many of us have memories of George taking on politicians, entertainment power brokers, companies and others who were sending their lawyers after us.
Most important to the Times, George helped make sure that we were writing the truth, and being fair to those we wrote about. He has probably saved the Times millions in legal costs, and helped defend our reputation for accuracy and fairness.
George has also been an extraordinary spokesman and goodwill ambassador for the company. He has spoken at countless conferences and law schools, communicating the Times’s credo as the world’s premier news organization.
And he serves another valuable, less visible role – that of someone who creates a strong bond between the corporate and news sides of the paper, two parties often separated by a gap.
We urge you to reconsider.
Alison Leigh Cowan
Monica P. Johnson
Jennifer B. McDonald
Donald G. McNeil Jr.
Catherine Saint Louis
Cornelius G. Schmid
Sandra M. Stevenson
[Capital New York]