Responding to “the economy and the secular changes in our industry,” the New York Times Company Foundation, and The Boston Globe Foundation along with it, are suspending their grant making activities, the Times announced to staff today.

The Times Foundation, for its part, donated $6.5 million—across the fields, per its Web site, of journalism, education, culture, service, and the environment—in the 2007 fiscal year, Nieman Lab’s Zach Seward reports. Its grant-making suspension will include the Foundation’s gift-matching program, which will be suspended as of Friday, May 22.

The move will also mean a staff reduction at the Foundation, which, in November 2008 (per Sourcewatch) had a ten-member board and a staff of seven. “With the suspension of these activities, the Foundation expects to reduce its staff accordingly,” Diane McNulty, the Times Company’s Executive Director of Community Affairs and Media Relations, wrote in an e-mail.

The Times Scholarship program will continue as normal for students already in the program but will be smaller going forward; the Times’s Neediest Cases Campaign and the Globe’s Santa program will continue unchanged.

One (very small) note of optimism, however, lies in the Times Company’s characterization of its move as a “suspension” of grant-making, rather than the “ending” of it—leaving the door open for a return to grant making if the company’s economic prospects improve.

In the meantime, it’s hard to see today’s news as anything but a sad sign of the Times. Below, the memo announcing the move, from Times Company vice chairman Michael Golden:

Dear Colleagues,

It is with sadness that I write to tell you that The New York Times Company Foundation is suspending grant making and the matching gifts program. This includes the grant making of The Boston Globe Foundation. As all of you know only too well, the economy and the secular changes in our industry are causing everyone to rigorously manage costs and unfortunately, this is a difficult but necessary step.

The Foundation will honor existing commitments, including those for multi-year grants but will make no other grants or accept any new applications for funding. This will, over time, affect the free access employees and their families enjoyed to museums. We will update the list of places offering free passes or discounts to Times Company employees, which can be found at: http://web.nytimes.com/xpedio/groups/system/@perks/documents/dynamicpage/perks_home.hcst.

Under the present matching gifts program, the Foundation has matched, dollar for dollar, contributions to eligible nonprofit institutions by full-time or retired employees and directors. This program will be suspended as of Friday, May 22. Contributions made after May 22 will not be matched by the Foundation.

The Times College Scholarship program will continue in a smaller incarnation. All of the students currently in the program will continue as normal as will the students currently in the Globe Scholars program.

The New York Times Neediest Cases Campaign and The Globe Santa program are unaffected by the changes announced today.

Lastly, the Foundation’s grants and matching gifts programs have touched the lives of many people. I would like to extend sincere appreciation on behalf of the company to the dedicated staff who has played such an important role in making the Foundation a success.

Sincerely,
Michael
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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.