Newsweek’s Johnnie L. Roberts reports that David Geffen would turn the New York Times into a non-profit institution if he should succeed in buying the paper. But someone — Roberts, Geffen, the unnamed Geffen “confidante” who’s quoted or perhaps all three — doesn’t really understand the model.
The example that’s cited is the St. Petersburg Times, which is owned by the non-profit Poynter Institute. But the Times itself is a for-profit organization. If that’s what Geffen’s really got in mind, then that might be the ideal ownership situation — unlike a true non-profit, the St. Pete Times is free to endorse political candidates, for instance.
But though the hybrid model eliminates the pressure of quarterly reports and shareholder discontent, a paper such as the St. Pete Times (the New Hampshire Union Leader has a similar ownership arrangement) still needs to break even. In the current economic climate, that’s a challenge.