August 16, 2006
Throwing Pinch OverboardBy Thomas Lifson
It has finally happened. The left is beginning to turn against New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr., known far and wide as 'Pinch.' It is simple to understand why: the New York Times is becoming a failing business under his stewardship, and the Left needs the NYT.
Faithful readers of The American Thinker have known this for over two years, as we have chronicled the journalistic and economic decline of the New York Times Company. We started warning investors that their money was at risk before the common stock lost half its value. We slogged through to SEC reports, pushed the numbers, and proved the shocking decline of the core business and major profit center of the company, its metropolitan print edition.
But it is one thing for websites 'out there' beyond the Hudson to point out that Pinch is killing the family business, and quite another for the man dubbed 'the King of New York Media' by The New Republic to point out that disaster looms ahead for members of the Ochs—Sulzberger clan, who cash dividend checks, and who also control the election for the board of directors. They might start thinking seriously about the attractiveness of professional management for the enterprise which sustains what must be a sophsiticated and pleasant lifestyle.
Michael Wolff, longtime writer for New York Magazine, took to the pages of no less than Vanity Fair, the glossy definition of au courant attitudes for New Yorkers of a certain economic and social status, to openly mock Pinch in what can only be described as a 'hit—piece.'
Why the Left is Starting to Hate Pinch
Anyone who understands the importance of the Times in setting the agenda for the entire media establishment realizes that without the Times to lead the way, lesser media properties in broadcasting and publishing might stray away from the left wing party line. Fox News has done better than any other media startup in recent memory by openly grazing in the conservative meadows. Despite intense derision by the Times and others in the Left establishment, it has prospered far more than they.
It simply would not do to have other media outlets beyond talk radio emulate this course. Virtually the entire media establishment, from home town dailies to network newscasts, takes its cues from the Times. Without a vibrant Times, ideological diversity in the media might proliferate.
Almost every ambitious newspaper reporter in the United States must at some point(s) fantasize about breaking a big story, getting noticed by the Times, and moving on up to what remains (for the moment) the pinnacle of prestige in American journalism. Reporters for lesser newspapers in Minneapolis, Montgomery or Missoula don't really make much money, not compared to lawyers and investment bankers. They are mostly in their line of work for prestige, excitement, and the 'ability to make a difference.' For such folk, toeing the line set by the Grey Lady helps them feel better about themselves, even if the call never comes. The Times' expectations about what defines good journalism serve as a standard by which journalists measure themselves.
But the Times is steadily becoming damaged goods. Its prestige is not what it once was. Jayson Blair, Howell Raines, Judith Miller, and other mere employees have done plenty of damage. Just last weekend (no doubt too late for Wolff's deadline), current executive editor Bill Keller made the jaw—dropping admission that he had lied to his readers about his decision not to publish a story on the NSA telephone intercept program before the 2004 presidential election, a matter of great concern to the Left. Even worse, Keller had a guilty conscience about the lie, but did not fess up until caught in an inconsistency and questioned by the paper's public editor, Byron Calame.
The rest of the media has done an excellent job of ignoring this major scandal. The man who sets the standards for the standard—setting newspaper, on which they model their own professionalism, has admitted to being a liar. And covering it up.
While everyone has the experience of having words come out the wrong way, honorable men and women correct the mistake before a year has passed, especially when the mistake becomes the basis of a large public controversy. But not the executive editor of the Times. He is on the record as tolerating a lie which he knows to be a lie.
Most significantly, the only boss Bill Keller has, Pinch Sulzberger, has publicly said nothing. No firing, no public reprimand, no exile for the lying liar, to use Al Franken's phrase. So the company is now on the record as regarding lying as tolerable, maybe even normal.
This is not the way to burnish a brand name.
For the Left's own reasons, it is becoming imperative to throw Pinch overboard, and let a grown—up try to salvage what's left.
The Future of the Times
Its still—lustrous if scuffed brand name is increasingly all the New York Times has left. The newsprint product is being milked to death. Unless a more capable management is able to figure out a way to capitalize on the brand than Pinch's sorry efforts (have you ever watched the 'Discovery Times Channel'? Be honest), time is running out for the Times. Diversification is pretty much a disaster.
Sparing his readers the gory details of the business decline of the New York Times Company, Wolff cuts to the chase: the paper version of the Times is dying, and there is so far no evident way for the expensive—to—produce content to be viable as an internet publication. His readers are warned that there will be a future without their daily dose of conventional Left wisdom. He goes so far as to predict it will be
Vanity Fair readers are now informed that their favorite newspaper is doomed under the helmsmanship of Pinch. Which is going to make it awkward for him when he goes to parties. Not to mention all the whispers and gossip family members will have to endure. Pinch is now an official Upper East Side laughingstock.
There are options for the family. Wolff outlines what he sees happening:
He's probably right. But left unspoken is the possibility that the Family will, thanks to his observations, be mobilized to fend off this disaster, and gently (or not) relieve Pinch of his post so that someone else can at least prolong the survival of the Times and its brand name.
That is certainly what the Left would prefer, as things now stand.
Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.