OLD Media Moves

Why the NYTimes tiptoes around covering itself

July 22, 2007

Posted by Chris Roush

New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt writes Sunday about the difficulty that the paper’s business reporter Landon Thomas Jr., who is assigned to write stories about the company, has in performing that task.

Clark HoytHoyt noted, however, that there are differences between the Bancroft family that controls The Wall Street Journal and the Sulzberger family that controls the Times, making the business story of the Times less pressing currently.

Hoyt wrote, “The Times has gone through troubles before and come out fine. A 1976 cover story in Business Week questioned the savvy and ability of Arthur Ochs (Punch) Sulzberger, the father of today’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., and said the family might be forced to sell if profits couldn’t be increased. The Times went on to some of its best years.

“Today’s Times is caught in unprecedented changes sweeping through an industry whose readers and advertisers are decamping from the printed newspaper to the Internet, where content is mostly free and the advertising rates that support newsrooms are comparatively low. Consider what has happened in a little more than a year: The nation’s second-largest newspaper publisher, Knight Ridder, was sold and partially broken up. The third-largest, the Tribune Company, is taking itself private in a complex transaction that puts a real estate developer in charge and puts most of the risk on the employees. And the Bancroft family, owners for more than 100 years of Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, America’s premier business daily, appears likely to sell to Rupert Murdoch, a tabloid king best known for a down-market approach to journalism.

“Amid all this turmoil, aggressively reported and analyzed in The Times, there has been a comparative silence in the paper about its own owners, their challenges and their strategy. From Arthur Sulzberger Jr. to Landon Thomas Jr., a business reporter who has been assigned stories about The Times, everyone acknowledges a fundamental truth: It’s hard to write about yourself.”

Read more here.

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