Why Sulzberger keeps a dog-eared Time from 1977

New York magazine
It reminds him how media critics can be so wrong. “This is the Time magazine piece on my father about how he was such an awful publisher that the newspaper wasn’t going to survive,” Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. tells Seth Mnookin, who writes:

As it turned out, the piece was a fairly positive account of his father’s effort to remake “America’s greatest newspaper” — evidence, if more were needed, of the painfully thin skin of a man who has spent decades on the defensive.

In his New York magazine cover story titled “The Kingdom and the Paywall,” Mnookin writes that the Times “has taken a do-or-die stand for hard-core, boots-on-the-ground journalism, for earnest civic purpose, for the primacy of content creators over aggregators, and has brought itself back from the precipice. And if that does indeed end up being the case, there’s one unlikely person who deserves most of the credit: Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.”

Sulzberger says, “Let’s be clear – we’re three months into this. It proves that we’re on a good track, better than we had imagined, but we’ve got to continue to invest. We’ve got to continue to change and adapt and grow from this experience. And we will.”

More excerpts from Mnookin’s cover story:

The fact that Bill Keller now feels comfortable enough to step down — he will be succeeded by managing editor Jill Abramson in September — is a sign that the paper appears to be on solid footing. “Nobody’s claiming that the transformation of our business is over,” Keller says. “But I think there’s much more of a sense of confidence that the Times will live on and prosper.”

It’s very possible that, with the fledgling success of the paywall, the Times is about to enter a new era of normalcy, which would mean a return to the internecine squabbling and byzantine turf wars that the paper has been famous for for decades. When a family isn’t fighting for survival, it’s free to attack itself. So it is perhaps a hopeful sign for the institution that Abramson’s ascension is accompanied by the faint sound of grumbling.

Some of the same kinds of criticisms that dogged Howell Raines have also attached themselves to Abramson: She plays favorites and steamrolls anyone who disagrees with her; her Beltway focus and lack of international experience make her ill-prepared for her post. But most reporters respect her battle-­hardened mien as well as her investigative bona fides. She is universally recognized as a ferocious competitor, as tough a journalist as any in the newsroom, even if she happens to have written a book about her dog.

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charles.kaiserI Charles Kaiser

    It’s true that the 1977 Time magazine cover about Arthur Sulzberger’s Jr’s father was in fact a rave–which was not surprising, because a) Punch was doing a good job, and b) Punch’s brother-in-law, Andrew Heiskell, was chairman of Time Inc. when it was published.
    Not true that this proves the current publisher is thin-skinned–just a tad careless.
    Arthur Jr. actually meant to pull a different magazine out of his  drawer:  an ancient Business Week attack on his father.