Sunday, April 05, 2009

The New York Times on the Precipice |

Many people are rooting for Arthur Sulzberger, and many people like him. It can be hard to persuade those who know him to talk candidly on the record. For this story, Arthur stuck by his decision to get out of the business of being interviewed, and he also declined to permit his employees to talk to me. Nevertheless, many did. I interviewed dozens of current and former Times reporters, editors, and business managers, as well as industry analysts, academics, and editors and publishers at rival newspapers. Nearly every one of them hopes that Arthur will succeed. Few expect that he can.

Only two years ago the New York Times Company moved into a new skyscraper on Eighth Avenue designed by Renzo Piano. Its façade rises into the clouds like an Olympian column of gray type. Whether owing to hubris or sheer distraction, the erection of a new headquarters often seems to spell trouble for corporations, and many had questioned the wisdom of this investment. The new Times building has now been sold, one more measure to relieve the company’s mounting debt. Eyeing the handsome grove of birch trees planted in its soaring atrium, one reporter told me, “We used to joke about how many trees died for a story. Now we ask, How many stories died for those trees?”

2:02 PM