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New York Times employees engaged in its largest newsroom work stoppage in decades

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

More than 1,100 members of the union representing the journalists at The New York Times walked out on their jobs yesterday. They picketed the paper's Manhattan headquarters. It was the largest newsroom work stoppage in decades, forcing editors to scramble to put out news coverage. Here's NPR's David Folkenflik.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: There was a lot of international news on The Times website today. Most reporters abroad aren't part of the union. Some articles carried the names of editors who hadn't reported a story on their own in years. Others simply didn't have any bylines - that is the names of the people who wrote them - notably including the article about the newsroom walkout itself.

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JON SCHLEUSS: We don't want to go on strike, but management isn't listening to us. This is the bravest thing that we can do.

FOLKENFLIK: National NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss addressed scores of workers picketing outside the paper's main offices.

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SCHLEUSS: By withholding our labor, we are sending a clear message.

FOLKENFLIK: The message being, if not now, when? The Times is flush, as its own CEO's recent remarks suggest.

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MEREDITH KOPIT LEVIEN: We made steady progress in the quarter for becoming the essential subscription for every English-speaking person seeking to understand and engage with the world.

FOLKENFLIK: This was Meredith Kopit Levien in a recent call with investors and analysts. Unlike local newspapers, The Times is flourishing, adding digital subscribers by the hundreds of thousands.

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KOPIT LEVIEN: We did so by advancing the three pillars of our strategy - leading in news, helping people make the most of their lives and passion, and putting those ideas together in a bundle that makes The Times indispensable in the daily lives of millions more people.

FOLKENFLIK: The two sides are far apart on a host of issues, though there's been growing consensus on several items as the walkout neared. The key issue separating them - the union's members want a 5.5% increase for each of four years, in part to make up for years without a raise. The paper says it can offer about half that. Late Wednesday night, Levien said the union's full suite of demands would require an extra $100 million, preventing it from investing in ways to preserve the newspaper's journalism. The union did not bring the papers to its knees yesterday but demonstrated a sense of solidarity as it embarks on further negotiations.

David Folkenflik, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.