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

Making GateHouse execs look like pikers

Check out some of these numbers at the New York Times Co., courtesy of the Boston Herald:

  • About $6 million in total compensation each for chairman Arthur Sulzberger (up more than 150 percent over 2008) and president Janet Robinson (up 32 percent).
  • About $2 million for former Boston Globe publisher Steven Ainsley.

Just for the heck of it, let’s assume Sulzberger and Robinson, in deference to their company’s problems, had decided to get by with a paltry $1 million apiece in 2009. Ainsley, too. That’s $11 million — or 55 percent of the $20 million in union givebacks the company extracted from the Globe’s unions. We are talking about three people.

No question the Globe needed to downsize and reinvest in new technologies. No question it couldn’t support nearly as many staff members as it had once employed.

But the bonuses show, in case there was any doubt, that the cuts in pay and benefits was, for management, a war of choice, not of necessity.

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  1. Dan O'Brien

    What a slap in the face to every reporter, editor and photographer at the New York Times Company. Truly a shame.

  2. Laurence Glavin

    Maybe David Brancaccio or Bill Moyers could do a story on this for their PBS TV shows. Oh yeah, I forgot; they’re being removed fromm the Friday night schedule, to be replaced by Jon Meacham of Newsweak. No doubt, he be right on the case.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Laurence: I did not realize Meacham had been given a show. He’s a smart, interesting guy, but will he ever be held accountable for letting Newsweek become a pathetic joke under his watch?

  3. Laurence Glavin

    Here’s a link for the Meacham-to-PBS story:

  4. Mike Benedict

    @Dan: That’s a little harsh. If memory serves, some time ago you indicated you hadn’t read Newsweek in *a long time.*

    Meacham should get credit for having recognized that not every news story or issue can be reported in 700 words (including pithy lede and uber-generic conclusion). Newsweek today is far better than it was at any time in the last 20 years (which is how long I’ve been a reader).

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Mike: I have just one question for you: Is your baby racist? And here’s a nice piece from the current issue on Liz Cheney’s presidential prospects.

      There are too many good people at Newsweek for it to consist of unrelieved dreck. But the overall direction has mirrored the meltdown of its corporate sibling, the Washington Post.

  5. B.A. DuBois

    But I thought the NYT stuck up for the downtrodden, the little people, the ones facing financial ruin…

    Oh well. Do as we say, not as we do… amazing. I bet the Guild people at the Globe have steam coming out of their ears on this news…

  6. Mike Benedict

    I hadn’t seen the Liz Cheney bit, which of course, is silly.

    The racist baby piece, if memory serves — and I could be mixing two stories here — actually had some meat to it, (specifically, that the literature shows parents often choose not to discuss racial differences with their kids, reasoning that not pointing out differences reinforces the idea we are all alike inside, yet kids whose parents do *not* discuss race and cultural differences tend to be *more* likely to emphasize differences), despite the grossly mishandled hed.

    But let’s be fair: That’s two pieces. Every publication has its stinkers. And if you’re not reading it even semiregularly, you’re probably not in the best position to make the call.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Mike: You are right about the racist baby story. I am referring to the cover treatment — that is, the aspect over which Meacham has the most control. Let’s also not forget using a porn doll (OK, I exaggerate) of Sarah Palin to illustrate a story about her.

  7. Aaron Read

    Thread drift!?!? Christ, no wonder Sultzberger and Ainsley are getting away with this atrocity.

    @Dan & everyone, here’s the question: what is there that will force them to stop taking such outrageous payments? Do you honestly think that the “outage of the masses” means ANYTHING to them?

    I mean really, what’s the point of investigative journalism anymore? We’ve rather pointedly see it fail over and over in the last 20 years as a deterrent to “bad behavior” by those in power. Can you think name me a single time it HAS served as a deterrent in the last 20 years? Or the last 10?

  8. Mike Benedict

    @Aaron: Let me frame your question a different way: Why, in this case, should any pressure change their “compensation” packages? Despite the proliferation of non-voting shares, The Sulzberger family owns the Times. So they get to decide how to reward themselves.

    Seems to me a more creative approach is needed, as any pressure to change would have to come from the inside, not the outside. The majority of the Times’ staff would have to walk out, and risk not ever coming back. It would only take a few days’ worth of lost revenue, in my estimation, for Pinch to feel the pain. Stop working for a week, and they’ll get anything they want.

  9. Bill Schweber

    Sorry, but does anyone in the real world care what Newsweek or Time say? They are so irrelevant, and everyone knows it–even they do, despite the bravado. At best, they are legends in their own minds, and that’s it. They are considered worthy only among the media inner circle, but it’s a worthiness supported by wishful thinking and not reality.

    If either or both disappeared tomorrow, what would we really lose? Would anyone really say “OMG, I’m really going to miss them” or “I’m lost without their insight”? In what way would we be poorer? Their time has come and is long gone, not just because of the Internet, either.

    Do you really know anyone who still has a subscription or buys it at the newstand (in other words, puts their money where their interest lies), except for media junkies and doctors’ offices (for those sick folks waiting the appointment)? One day, reality will hit these folks hard, it will be like the pivotal scene in the Wizard of Oz, whern they pull back the curtain and see the “wizard” in person!

  10. Mike Benedict

    @Bill: Would anyone really say “OMG, I’m really going to miss them” or “I’m lost without their insight”? In what way would we be poorer? Their time has come and is long gone, not just because of the Internet, either.

    Disagree, strongly. There are relatively few sources of good long-form reporting around. Newsweek and, to a lesser extend, Time, are two of them. What’s great about the Web is also what’s wrong with it: you can get breadth and depth on any subject there is. But — and this is a big but — it’s damn hard to discern where fact leaves off and opinion kicks in, and practically none of those Web-only sites offer more than a single perspective, let alone undergo the rigor of a cabal of editors. When they are right, certain magazines, especially the redesigned Newsweek, accomplish all that.

  11. Aaron Read

    (note: I meant “OUTRAGE of the masses”, not “outage”, of course. 🙂

    I think if the NY Times, the Washington Post, or maybe the Wall Street Journal, completely shut down for a week…presumably due to a strike…then and only then would you have a combination of angry enough readers AND sufficient national media coverage big enough to cause advertisers to flee…and thus cause enough pain at the top to at least force an “appearance of change”. (I’m not naive enough to think that anything will really ever change)

    Pretty much any other newspaper in the country, and definitely any newsmagazine (like Time or Newsweek) doing that? They’d only be signing their own death notice. “The masses” would shrug and get their news elsewhere. If the Globe went away tomorrow, yes people in Boston…and possibly New England…would be outraged. But the rest of the country wouldn’t care and thus the advertisers wouldn’t care.

    That’s just my opinion, but I don’t think anyone here would disagree with me. Aside from perhaps adding/subtracting one or two nationally-focused papers.

    @Mike B: The top-level answer is that the Sultzberger’s pay packages are directly causing a degradation of the product they’re providing us. They are clearly telling the consumers of their product that they think we’ll swallow any drivel they deign to shovel our way. OTOH, I think you’re right…the only way change will come is from within; the unions at the Globe should be hopping mad right about now.

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