More Trouble at the New York Times

One hundred journalists, including some high-profile names, are leaving the New York Times as the paper desperately seeks to conserve cash in the face of a serious shortfall. It’s not a very Merry Christmas at the paper that still fancies itself the gold standard of American journalism, even as conservatives remain critical of its deep liberal bias.

A long and detailed survey of the situation at the Gray Lady written by Ken Kurson of the New York Observer is recommended reading over the holiday, for anyone who cares about the fate of the flagship of the leftist journalism establishment. The Times remains the pilot fish for progressive journalists, signaling what stories to cover and which to ignore, and dictating the spin that the dominant media will take. It’s fate is a matter of national importance that critics in particular should pay heed to. Even if it fails financially, as it appears to be inevitably doing, it will not go away. Someone like Michael Bloomberg or Mexico’s shadowy billionaire Carlos Slim (who is already a major shareholder) will take it over and use its dominant position for whatever agenda is desired.

Ironies abound in the situation at the Times. The situation at the progressive outpost is closer to feudalism than to socialism, a fact that cannot be lost on the remaining hundreds of journalists. While the peons get terminated at holiday time, family members are protected. The Observer spoke to a highly placed insider who remains unidentified:

According to this person, the Times is staring at an enormous shortfall—as much as $50 million, according to this source—that must be closed immediately. That explains the draconian cuts of 100 journalists. Somewhat spared the axe has been the Times business side, in particular vice chairman Michael Golden, whose total compensation hovers around $2 million even while the position’s scope has shrunk considerably from what it was under his predecessor. Mr. Golden is not only a long-serving executive, but also a cousin of Times publisher and chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. According to the Times‘ Schedule 14A proxy statements, Mr. Golden earned $1,979,796 in total compensation in 2013 for running the Human Resources and Communications Departments.

“What you have to understand here is that they’re giving everyone head counts. The edit side had its haircut but the business side really hasn’t chopped the same way. They’re paying [current CEO] Mark Thompson $4.5 mil and Michael $2 mil and they’re both doing a lot less than the positions used to require.”

The source’s claim that the business side has not faced the same sharp axe as editorial was backed up in dramatic fashion just last month. Denise Warren, an executive vice president for digital products, was a key executive and had been considered for the top job after former CEO Janet Robinson was ushered out. Ms. Warren left the company on October 28 after 26 years at the Times. But downsizing was not the reason—in fact, according to the Times itself, Mr. Sulzberger and Mr. Thompson “had decided to split Ms. Warren’s position into two jobs.” Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told the Observer, “We’ve also said publicly that ‘in some parts of the business side, previous rounds of job cuts have been so great that the scope for further headcount loss is marginal, but there will be some job losses.’ “

The piece makes some detailed comparisons between the structure at Dow Jones (publisher of the Wall Street Journal), which was another family-owned company, and the Times. At Dow Jones, no family members worked in management, and the organization was far leaner. And at Dow Jones, enough family members were persuaded to sell their shares to News Corp that the company was acquired. The same fate could await the Times as the financial situation deteriorates. If and when that happens, the face of American journalism will change, perhaps drastically.

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