Sunday, April 12, 2009

NYT Has “Wrong Person . . .At The Helm”

That’s the theme of Mark Bowden’s May Vanity Fair article: NYT publisher Arthur Sulzberger has good intentions but he’s not the person to be leading the Times today.

Here’s some of what Bowden says - - -

… In 2001, The New York Times celebrated its 150th anniversary. In the years that have followed, Arthur Sulzberger has steered his inheritance into a ditch.

As of this writing, Times Company stock is officially classified as junk. Arthur made a catastrophic decision in the 1990s to start aggressively buying back shares ($1.8 billion worth from 2000 to 2004 alone).

This was considered a good investment at the time, and had the effect of increasing the stock’s value. Shares were going for more than $50. Now they are slipping below $4—less than the price of the Sunday Times.

Arthur’s revenues are in free fall: the bottom has dropped out of both newspaper and Internet advertising. He has done more than anyone in the business to showcase newspaper journalism online. It hasn’t helped much.

The content and page views of the newspaper’s Web site,, may be the envy of the profession, but as a recent report from Citigroup explained, “The Internet has taken away far more advertising than it has given.” Layoffs have occurred in the once sacrosanct newsroom. …

While the crushing forces at work in the newspaper industry are certainly not Arthur’s fault, and many other newspapers have already succumbed to them, the fate of The New York Times is of special importance: it is the flagship of serious newspaper journalism in America.

The Times sailed into the economic storm that began in 2001 in good financial shape, bearing the most respected brand name in the profession. It was far better equipped than most newspapers to adapt and survive.

What is increasingly clear is that the wrong person may be at the helm. ...

Bowden’s entire article is here.

Folks, forget Bowden’s use of the conditional when he says “the wrong person
may be at the helm.” (italic mine)

A read of Bowden’s entire piece leaves no doubt he believes Sulzberger’s the wrong person to be leading the Times today. Very, very much the wrong person!

But I believed that before I read Bowden’s article.

The Times rose to eminence, power and riches as the newspaper that printed “the truth without fear or favor.”

The belief that it was such a newspaper made the Times journalism’s “gold standard.”

Sulzberger’s let the paper drift so far left that a running joke among many Times watchers is that the reason there’s so much bias in its news columns is the editors can fit it all on the editorial pages.

Many factors now contribute to the Times problems. Frittering away its reputation for objectivity and reliability in its news reporting didn't have to be one them. But Sulzberger made it so.


Anonymous said...

When you eliminate half of your potential target audience because of your ideological bias, and when you insult that half, you shouldn't be surprised that you've messed up the business. Pinch Sulzberger and the Duke professors deserve each other.