New York Times, BusinessWeek: The autumn of their years

September 11, 2009

Publishing beat reporters should expect a flare-up in their carpal tunnel syndrome in the coming weeks. Here is why:

The New York Times Co will decide whether to sell The Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram & Gazette by “early fall,” the Worcester daily reported on Friday, citing Times Co Chief Executive Janet Robinson. Fall this year begins on September 22, less than two weeks from today. McGraw-Hill, meanwhile, set September 15 — next Tuesday — as the deadline for bids on BusinessWeek magazine (Bloomberg apparently has reentered the bidding process too).

Here is an excerpt from the Telegram & Gazette’s story:

“The New England Media Group is in better financial shape than it was at the beginning of the year,” Ms. Robinson said at an afternoon “town hall” meeting… “Our hand is not being forced to sell. We are not in a situation where we are absolutely being forced to sell the Globe and the T&G.”

A decision on the sale is likely in the early fall, Ms. Robinson said.

“This is a very unnerving and distracting process so we’d like to move more quickly than not,” she said.

I might echo that last sentiment.

Neither deal, if any of them actually come about, would excite news editors who set the newsworthiness bar by price. BusinessWeek, it has been widely reported, could sell for a dollar (we still think this is a figurative, rather than a literal price), and bids coming in for the Globe have been around $35 million, according to news reports. A bunch of other small-money deals are lurking out there in media as well, for example, the stalking-horse bid of $5 million for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Still, these are properties with famous, or at least, recognizable names, and journalists like to write about themselves (I know whereof I speak), so expect some digital ink to start welling up sooner rather than later.

On a side note, we couldn’t help but notice that NYT CEO Robinson said what she said at a Telegram & Gazette meeting on Thursday that did not include NYT chairman and head of its controlling family, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. He did attend a meeting at the Globe earlier this week, which made us wonder whether the Telegram & Gazette wasn’t big enough to merit the presence of two Times honchos. Whatever the case, his absence was merely due to a scheduling conflict, a Times spokeswoman said.

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