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August 16, 2006

The Gray Lady's Ship Is Taking On Water

The state of affairs aboard the New York Times must truly be grim, considering that the paper's liberal elite colleagues at Vanity Fair are already writing its obituary.

Detailing the "crisis of confidence" at the Times, Michael Wolff points out that it has become "a liberal caricature" that makes an easy punching bag for the Bush Administration.

The Times has been a mighty institution — "historically, more like a branch of government than a mere commercial enterprise." But history is slipping into the past. The Gray Lady's share price has plunged 50% since 2002. Nearly 30% of its shareholders objected to the company's slate of directors at the last annual meeting. Perhaps most ominous of all, the Times' bumbling leadership chooses now to plan opulent new headquarters — a "$850 million tribute to itself" that calls attention to its "weaknesses and vulnerabilities and inflated sense of grandeur."

Part of the Gray Lady's blues stems from demographics. Wolff suggests that its Eastern establishment readership "simply may not exist anymore. Or it's just aged out of the economic mainstream." Your average NYC resident would rather read the Post or the Daily News. The "urban-suburban yuppie type" is a natural target audience, but also an extremely fickle one that has plenty of other options.

Scandals have taken their toll. Jayson Blair, the star reporter whose main qualification was his ethnicity, made the paper a laughing stock when he was discovered to have been inventing or plagiarizing stories. The Judith Miller farce didn't help either, particularly since it highlighted how the Gray Lady abruptly turns on her own. Exposing — and thereby crippling — government attempts to prevent terror attacks by monitoring financial information didn't do much to enhance the Times' popularity.

The heaviest millstone around the Gray Lady's neck is Publisher Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger, an irresponsible left-wing flake whom Wolff describes as "flamboyant, hard-to-control, easy-to-dislike" and "attention-seeking, immature, verbally feckless." In the past Sulzbergers have exercised their power with a light touch. Not Pinch, who imposes his cluelessness on both the editorial and business aspects of the Times.

Wolff's prognosis is dire. First come the layoffs, then more restiveness on the part of board members,

followed by little changes in the nature of control, and then asset sales, and lots of secret meetings among family members on the subject of what to do about Arthur, and then a plan afoot to take the title of publisher from him, and on and on … until … the powers that be face the dreadful discrepancy between the declining fortunes of business as usual and a more probable upside of dismantling, selling, and letting the market have its certain way.

In short, there's a good chance the New York Times — from which the rest of the MSM takes its cues — won't be around for much longer. Sad, isn't it? First the Soviet Union falls, and now this.

Captain Pinch steers his leaky ship toward Niagara Falls (photo: Reuters).

Posted by Van Helsing at August 16, 2006 9:33 PM


Good Freaking Riddance.

Posted by: nikko at August 17, 2006 10:28 AM

I agree, good riddance to bad rubbage.

However, I think the internet has a lot to do with it, also. I haven't bought a paper in years, and don't intend to ever again, I read it all online.

I just flipped over to and it's not a subscription service. I wonder if their readers are switching there, and if so, how will they make money? Obviously those ads aren't generating enough since their stocks are dropping.

By the way, I'm not advocating anyone actually reading their news. I don't want to be accussed of fostering indoctrination.

Posted by: Hargo Keipf at August 23, 2006 7:29 PM