Help The New York Times save $$!

April 23, 2009

An investor at Thursday’s 2009 New York Times annual meeting came up with a heck of a way to save money. But first, a recap of all the serious stuff that executives brought up at the meeting (Read the whole thing on the wire):

  • We will stay public.
  • We will not be sold.
  • There is no one solution to what ails the newspaper business.
  • We’re trying everything.
  • Stop asking about us closing The Boston Globe or selling it. We won’t tell you until we’re ready. (By the way, it only took the Times nearly a month to reveal what the Globe has reported for ages: It is on track to lose $85 million this year.)

Now for money-saving tips for the struggling TImes, courtesy of an investor whose name I didn’t get a chance to catch. Here’s what she said to Times Co Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr during an investor Q&A:

As to savings on newsprint, I see belabored articles taking almost full pages on obscure topics… perhaps [about] someone in the Brazilian forest I cannot do anything about. So if you’re trying to save newsprint, perhaps you could edit these things to a more reasonable size… [Then] there is the expense you incur editorially in aspects that are really not necessary. [Times food critic] Frank Bruni had to go to Texas to write about a pork restaurant which most of your readers will never go to… Cathy Horyn had to go to the Dominican Republic to interview Oscar de la Renta who is here 90 percent of the time.

Tough call for a reporter like me. Who doesn’t love traveling to interesting places and writing about them, preferably at 5,000 words a pop? Then again, if it’s all about readers first…

Meanwhile, another investor complained that the Times does not offer enough local coverage, but seems to have the budget to send reporters all around the world. “Send these people to Brooklyn! Send these people to the Bronx!” he said of Times reporters. “You will increase circulation.”

Sulzberger paused for a moment, then reminded the investor that the Times won a Pulitzer this week for local reporting. As to whether shareholders can reap the dividends of Pulitzers, that’s another story…

(Cartoon: Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., courtesy of Paul Szep)


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Tough for me to admit as well, but I kind of agree. what about the Times’ policy of “touchdown bylines?” Essentially, a story is reported and written without travel costs, then the reporter flies to whatever location and barely leaves the airport simply to give the story a local dateline? What about a magazine editor who flies to san fran yearly, stays at the five-star hotel for a week, eats at the expensive restaurants, under the guise of “interviewing potential j-school interns?” The upper levels of these institutions have a kind of open-wallet, tenure-like work environment that economically, makes non-sense.

Posted by anonymous | Report as abusive

I think that this was a common, if disreputable practice, at a number of journalism outlets over the years. I don’t remember exactly how it started so don’t quote me, but I think it arose out of well intentioned convenience for harried and hard-traveling foreign corros and eventually transformed into the practice of lazy journalists. I also think, though I can’t say for sure, that the toe-tap or touchdown byline is something that the nyt and washington post now forbid because it carries a whiff of dishonesty. Ask them for the real story, however.

I can’t speak to the magazine editor scenario, except to say that it’s nice work if you can get it.

Posted by Robert MacMillan | Report as abusive

Dear anonymous:
The dateline integrity entry in the Times stylebook says:
Because believable firsthand news gathering is The Times’s hallmark, datelines must scrupulously specify where the reporter was when doing the bulk of the reporting or gathering the most significant information.

The dateline should not be chosen simply to showcase the most exotic locale a reporter visited, or to highlight a single anecdote, but must indicate the site of the main reporting.

Posted by Craig Whitney | Report as abusive

Of course, that “local reporting” the Times’ Pulitzer was for was a story about the state’s governor, whose office is in Albany, and a sex act that took place in Washington, DC. And the Pulitzer was for “Breaking News,” an entirely different concept from local reporting.

That kind of thinking may be part of Pinch’s problem.

Posted by anonymous | Report as abusive

I don’t think that reporting on subjects of local interest to New York City means that you restrict yourself to wherever the subway, commuter trains and buses go.

Spitzer, beyond being the governor of the state that houses New York, is a New York City resident, and at the time was a high-profile public figure who made his home in the city. He lives there now, too, of course. Also, the NYT has a bureau in Albany so reporters don’t travel back and forth. So, and this is just my guess, I don’t think Albany and DC, where the Times has a presence, are quite the same thing as sending someone to write features about the seagoing birds of Patagonia or what-have-you.

Posted by Robert MacMillan | Report as abusive

The NY Times circulates beyond New York. From what I understand, it sells more copies out of New York City than within. So what is local? I live in San Jose, California, and I am not interested the Bronx. (I’m also not interested in San Jose, but that’s a whole ‘nother ballgame!)

Posted by Larry Chandler | Report as abusive

It’s precisely because of things like stories on a pork restaurant in Texas why I read the NY Times – because it goes different places and writes about different things.
Stop being so provincial and…dumb, NY Times investor.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

The New York Times is the world’s best newspaper. It is vital to America’s public interest.

Surely in that judgment I am hardly alone. I have suggested, therefore, The Times create a non-profit foundation that people can endow as they endow great universities. I cannot imagine any university or college whose day-to-day existence matters more to this nation than the publication of The Times.

Like any great institution, The Times is not flawless, but the quality of its daily performance exceeds that of any other in our land – whatever that institution.

Lastly, in their civic commitment the Sulzberger family has a long and distinguished history, and the only way to insure the continuing greatness of The Times is to insure the Sulzbergers remain in control.

George Mitrovich
San Diego

Posted by George Mitrovich | Report as abusive

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Posted by When to Trade Forex | 123 FOREX | Report as abusive

There seems to be alot of obscure content in the front section of the paper. I reside in E Texas and receive the Times on FSS, and love it and enjoy the economic, business and editorisal sections. But some of your remote indigenous studies are skipped. You could probably find interesting indigenous leads locally like the reporter suggested, but please do all you can to stay in business for us w/e readers. I have to admit, pork bar-b-que is worth the trip to Texas. We call it pulled pork because the meat is actually pulled apart. No mask needed. Beer helps to keep the germs away.

Posted by Eric Jensen | Report as abusive

I don’t care if the Times is on track to lose 3 trillion dollars like the rest of us in this country. The paper is a biased, derisive publication and has lost all of it’s journalistic integrity.

Posted by copper peony | Report as abusive