Globe publisher Taylor was both lucky and good

William Taylor

William Taylor, the former Boston Globe publisher who died Sunday, was both lucky and good.

Lucky because his time as publisher coincided with an era of enormous prosperity in the newspaper industry. Good because he used that prosperity to transform the Globe into one of the best papers in the country. Under Taylor and the late editor Tom Winship, the Globe grew into a national-class paper with its own correspondents overseas and around the country.

For those who needed reminding, today’s obituary, by Bryan Marquard, explains why Taylor had to sell. With the paper on the verge of devolving to about 120 heirs, the only way Taylor could preserve the Globe’s legacy was to leave it in the hands of a good steward. He chose the New York Times Co., which paid an astounding $1.1 billion — half the Times Co.’s stock-market valuation at the time.

And if the Sulzbergers haven’t been quite the magnanimous owners Bill Taylor might have hoped for (especially when his second cousin Ben Taylor was sacked as publisher in 1999), they still have maintained the Globe’s quality to a far greater degree than a bottom-feeding chain like Gannett or a bankrupt behemoth like Tribune would have.

Bill Taylor’s death comes at a time when Ben Taylor and his cousin Steve, himself a former Globe executive, are seeking to return to some sort of ownership role as part of a group put together by local businessman Aaron Kushner.

The Taylor brand gives Kushner instant credibility — and it was Bill Taylor who was largely responsible for creating that brand.

Also: The Nieman Foundation pays tribute to Taylor.


The Taylors make another run at the Globe

News that Ben and Steve Taylor have signed on to businessman Aaron Kushner’s bid to buy the Boston Globe has changed the dynamic. The Taylors, of course, are prominent members of the family that owned and ran the Globe for more than 100 years. Ben was the publisher before he was ousted in 1999. Steve was executive vice president.

The Taylors, who are cousins, fell short in a bid to buy the paper back from the New York Times Co. in 2009. The reason was never announced, but the buzz was that their group was undercapitalized, and that the Times Co. would have had to accept a ridiculously low price in that year of economic crisis. The Globe would undoubtedly be worth more now, but how much more is hard to say.

The significance of the Taylors’ involvement is that there now will be support within influential circles for the Times Co. to return the Globe to local ownership.

Would Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger sell the Globe? By placing the Globe, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and their associated websites on the block in 2009, he made it clear that he would if the price was right and if he and other Times Co. executives were comfortable with the buyers.

I suspect the big question they’ll now have to answer is whether they can get the price they want — or if, instead, they think they can get more by hanging on to their New England properties for another few years.

The Globe first reported Kushner’s interest last October.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

What Murdoch really wants in New York

In my latest for the Guardian, I argue that the just-unveiled New York edition of the Wall Street Journal doesn’t have to beat the New York Times in order for Journal owner Rupert Murdoch to accomplish his goal. Murdoch only has to make the Times bleed.

Worcester Guild slams Times Co. executives

One month after Newspaper Guild members at the Boston Globe circulated a letter criticizing New York Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger and president Janet Robinson for richly rewarding themselves while threatening to shut the Globe, their counterparts at Worcester’s Telegram & Gazette have followed suit.

Beset by what they describe as a four-year pay freeze, substantial newsroom downsizing and proposed cuts in benefits, union officials say management has repeatedly called for “sacrifice” while Sulzberger and Robinson paid themselves more than $12 million in 2009.

As you no doubt know, the Times Co. operates the Globe, the T&G and as a unit known as the New England Media Group. But though the Guild has a presence at both papers, the largest union at the Globe is the Boston Newspaper Guild, whereas T&G employees are represented by the Providence Newspaper Guild.

The Worcester protest coincides with an announcement by the T&G that it will start charging for some online content starting this summer. (So, too, will the Concord Monitor, as the paid-content trend continues to ramp up. Here is Tony Schinella’s take.)

The full text of the Worcester Guild’s press release and letter to Sulzberger and Robinson follows.

NYTimes Execs Big Raises Gall Guild in Worcester


Bob Datz  508 xxx-xxxx
Lee Hammel 508 xxx-xxxx
Worcester Unit Council members
Local 31041 The Newspaper Guild

The letter below was sent April 23 to NY Times Co. chairman  Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and CEO Janet Robinson by the Worcester (Mass.) unit of The Newspaper Guild, expressing frustration with the enormous pay raises they recived.

During the three years that contract negotiations with the Guild in Worcester have stretched out, the company has offered its employees no pay raise. (The day before union members were scheduled to ratify the letter,  the company finally offered a one-time $750 signing bonus, which amounts to about  0.4 percent of pay over 3 years without raising base pay, in exchange for stripping away hard-won rights and benefits).

We would appreciate if you would consider a story alerting your readers to the dichotomy between the NYTimes editorial insistence that others behave justly and its attitude toward its own employees.

April 23, 2010

Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr.
Janet Robinson
President and Chief Executive Officer
The New York Times Company
620 8th Avenue
New York, NY10018

Dear Arthur and Janet,

Many of us at the Telegram & Gazette in Worcester don’t pay a lot of attention to high finance in New York. We have terrific jobs in the world’s best industry, and we are only too happy to concentrate on the business and politics and human drama that enliven Central Massachusettsday in and day out that we are privileged to gather and write and distribute.

But even the most focused of us could not help but notice the pay raises that both of you received for 2009. You have told us that our business is changing and times are difficult, and we have heard the same in contract negotiations over the past three years. We understand that we must change with the times in an environment where paid circulation and advertising revenue are falling. And management has told us that sacrifice is necessary.

So imagine our surprise upon learning the kind of “sacrifice” that you are enduring. As President and Chief Executive Officer, you Janet, have been given a 31.8 percent increase in salary, bonus, and other compensation in a single year, bringing your total compensation to $6.3 million.

Arthur, as Board Chairman and Publisher of the New York Times, your total compensation more than doubled in 2009, to $6 million. The $3.7 million that your compensation increased could pay the salary of some 75 of the people that have been laid off by the company, some of whom we have been saddened to see walk out our own doors.

Meanwhile, The Newspaper Guild has been in negotiation with the management in Worcester, as our contract expired nearly three years ago. Fortunately, we are told, the Telegram & Gazette is not only not losing money, but continues to make money through this period, albeit at lower than customary levels.

Nevertheless we have been offered neither a pay raise nor bonus over a four-year period. In fact, the company proposes to slash real compensation when benefits are considered. Management also wants to stop offering a pension to any new hires and to freeze the guaranteed pension of those of us who have one, in a “tradeoff” that the company should be well aware calculates to significant losses in projected retirement income.

While offering little or no financial incentive, the company wants to change contract language to remove the substantial equivalency of our medical coverage with no guarantees on the proportionate sharing of the premium costs. Finally, the company wishes to be allowed to lay off employees regardless of seniority.

This takes place in a backdrop of existing layoffs, buyouts and hiring freezes that have brought an 18 percent reduction of the company’s work force in 2009 alone. The employees remaining are asked, or forced, to reduce their benefits in the wake of a management decision to build a new skyscraper for the company headquarters. Our productivity subsidizes not only distant and ill-fated real estate transactions (click here) but deficits in units where employees are paid significantly better than we are, even with recent concessionary contracts.

We are thrilled to see the New York Times editorial pages seek fair treatment for people. Arthur and Janet, we ask that we, like you, receive some financial consideration for our efforts and that you recognize the increased work load we have taken on, because we, like you, have families who depend on us.


Members of The Newspaper Guild
Worcester Unit, Local 31041

Boston Newspaper Guild rips Times Co. bonuses

The following e-mail, dated Thursday, was sent to members of the Boston Newspaper Guild, the largest union at the Boston Globe. Media Nation obtained a copy of the e-mail from a confidential, reliable source. Click here for background. (As you will see if you click on the link to Editor & Publisher below, the Guild was not entirely accurate in describing the compensation packages of Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger and president Janet Robinson.)

Hi folks,

As you may have heard, the NY Times recently awarded its top two executives more than $10 million in stocks and bonuses for their performance in 2009, a year that for most of us in the Boston Newspaper Guild was a disaster. Two people, Janet Robinson and Arthur Sulzberger, received stocks and stock options equal to the pay and benefit cuts that they demanded from our whole union under threat of closing the Boston Globe for good. We want the New York Times leadership to know that we’re angry and disgusted by their greed and hypocrisy.

Please take a look at the attached letter of protest as well as the link to news coverage of their big pay day. If you agree that it’s wrong and you want to send a message, please email us that you are willing to have your name attached to the letter.

We face contract negotiations with the New York Times company later this year and we want them to know well in advance that, if they can afford to pay executives so much, we expect similar generosity.

Dear Arthur and Janet,

We were astonished to learn that the two of you received more than $10 million in stock awards and options in 2009. During the year for which you were so richly rewarded, the 600 members of the Boston Newspaper Guild gave back almost the same amount in pay and benefit reductions — $10 million, to be exact — after you threatened to close our newspaper, lay off hundreds of people, and strip Massachusetts of its largest newspaper.

Previously, New York Times officials told us that we needed to accept pay cuts and unpaid days off along with higher health costs, the elimination of our retirement programs and other benefit reductions in order to save the Boston Globe. But the recent SEC filings make it look like almost all of our sacrifices went to pay the two of you. For most of us up here at your newspaper in Boston, 2009 was financially disastrous, as Guild members were forced to move to cheaper housing, take second jobs, scrap vacations and make other drastic measures to offset more than a 15 percent reduction in our pay and benefits. We made these sacrifices under duress, yes, but also because we understood that the Globe faced real financial challenges in an economic downturn and a dramatically changing marketplace. We did it because we care deeply about our newspaper, its mission, and the critical role it serves in our region and our nation. And we did it with an expectation that our sacrifices would be shared across the company.

The two of you gave us the impression that you understood all that when you visited the Globe last winter. You even personally thanked us for giving up so much for the greater good. Now we learn that, all the while, you were in line for astronomical bonuses over and above your million dollar salaries. Ms. Robinson’s compensation rose 32 percent last year; Mr. Sulzberger’s overall pay more than doubled. While you’ve stopped contributing to our modest retirement plans, the value of your own pensions has increased sharply.

Needless to say, we are insulted, but we also feel betrayed that you would reap such profits at a time when so many of your employees have lost so much.

Our nation’s history is filled with corporate executives who profited handily by cutting workers’ salaries and eliminating jobs. But few of those figures helmed newspapers that have done eloquent, important work in revealing and condemning such practices. For this reason, we are hopeful — as both shareholders and employees — that you will govern this company with morality and a basic sense of fairness.

We have appealed to you once before this year about the Times’ seemingly excessive largesse to its executives in such troubled times. The Times Co. handed out more than $500,000 in cash bonuses to the Boston Globe’s publisher [Steven Ainsley] on his retirement — just as the employees he left behind were forced to schedule eight unpaid days off. We hope that, this time, you will give us the courtesy of a reply and an explanation.

Now that the Times has shown it can afford to lavish so much on a few top executives, we expect our pay and benefit cuts will be restored in the coming months. We look forward to hearing from you.

Members of the Boston Newspaper Guild

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.

More from Editor & Publisher.

What does Times video campaign mean for the Globe?

Trying to figure out where the Boston Globe stands in the New York Times Co. firmament is a little like analyzing the ins and outs of the old Soviet Politburo based on their position on the podium during the May Day parade.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but be struck by a story in today’s Times (it also appears in the Globe) reporting that Times content will soon be featured on 850 screens in public places in five cities — including Boston.

The content, according to the story, by Times media reporter Richard Pérez-Peña, will be shown on screens owned by RGM Networks in places such as coffee shops, casual restaurants and newsstands at airports.

Last year, of course, the Times Co. tried to sell the Globe after months of angst, including a threat to shut the paper down, if the paper’s unions wouldn’t agree to $20 million in givebacks. The sale was called off amid reports that neither of the two bidders was willing or perhaps able to come up with sufficient cash.

The Globe remains the Times Co.’s second-biggest paper. So you’d think that the company would avoid doing something that would benefit the Times at the expense of the Globe.

Not to make too much of this. It’s a modest venture, and it’s not as though the Times Co. never promotes its flagship in Boston. But it does play into the notion that, once the economy improves, Arthur Sulzberger and company will put the Globe on the market once again.