By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Heck of a job, Arthur

No offense to New York Times media reporter Richard Pérez-Peña, but his story today on the New York Times Co. should be seen as the Times Co.’s best case for itself rather than as a tough-minded forensic overview. So in that respect it offers some interesting insights into how Arthur Sulzberger Jr. assesses his reign as chairman of the company and publisher of its flagship newspaper.

And yes, for the most part, Sulzberger thinks he’s doing a hell of a job. Pérez-Peña writes:

Newspaper industry analysts say that despite some published alarms to the contrary, the company has positioned itself well to ride out another year of recession, maybe two. The company still operates at a profit, and analysts say it might have gotten by without the [Carlos] Slim loan, but could not afford to take the risk because borrowing could be even harder in six months or a year.

“But,” said Edward Atorino, an analyst at Benchmark, a research firm, “I think they’ve put The New York Times out of danger.”

And did you know that Times Topics is now a competitor to Wikipedia? No, me either. And Jimmy Wales makes three.

There is no mention of whether the Times Co. would like to peddle the Boston Globe, the subject of near-constant speculation around here.

Pérez-Peña does point to some shortcomings. And the most eye-opening is this: between 1997 and 2004, the company bought back $2.7 billion in stock, a number that is now nearly four times the company’s entire market capitalization of about $726 million.

“[I]t outweighs the prices of all the other second-guessed moves combined,” Pérez-Peña writes, “and it would be more than enough to ensure the company’s security for years to come.”

All that aside, I suspect that Pérez-Peña’s fundamentally sunny take on his newspaper’s future is more accurate than the doomsday scenarios put forth in recent months by Henry Blodget of Silicon Alley and Michael Hirschorn of the Atlantic.

At least I hope so.

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2 Comments

  1. Virginia Hoge

    Of course I want the New York Times to survive, but I have been appalled at some of their editorial decisions over the past few years. The WMD debacle comes to mind, but I was equally distressed by their New York Times magazine flattering piece on Rush Limbaugh.This is supporting right-wing extremism!! the last thing we would want the NY Times to support.I have sincere hope, that reason will overtake the “mad” elements at the NY Times and we can see this paper restored to its former strength.

  2. O-FISH-L

    Virginia, fear not. On Thursday, the Times published Judith Warner’s dreams of Obama taking a shower, and the results of her “inquiry” revealing, “Many women — not too surprisingly — were dreaming about sex with the president.” I think we can count The Grey Lady among them.

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