Friday, February 22, 2008

Could the McCain Smear Be the Last Gasp of the Sulzberger NY Times?

In the wake of the other day’s “anonymously sourced” (at the NY Times that has often been a euphemism for reportorial fantasies) Front Page story claiming that two anonymous sources thought it might have been possible that they “kinda, sorta” suspected that John McCain (then running in the GOP Primary for President) "may or may not have” had an affair with then 32 y/o Washington, D.C. lobbyist Vicki Iseman.

Yikes rumor is now “news”! The NY Times has finally sunk to “National Enquirer status.”

Worse still, the “investigators” for the story have found no occasions on which Senator John McCain voted favorably for the things Ms Iseman lobbied for.

Drats...and double drats!

Even worse yet, is that since 2006, New York Times Co.'s public shareholders have sent the company a signal that they want changes in its dual-class stock structure.

At a recent meeting, 42% of voting holders of Class A stock refused to vote for the New York Times Company.

The NY Times Company has come under fire by shareholders, including major stock owner, Morgan Stanley’s portfolio manager Hassan Elmasry, for its two-tiered share structure, which puts the majority of power in the hands of the holders of the Class B shares. Elmasry has long charged that the dual-class system strays from the best practices of corporate governance, and that it doesn't give public shareholders enough opportunity to demand drastic changes at a company whose stock price has been weak for a prolonged period.

Just last April, influential investment advisor firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) advised that NYT Company’s Class A shareholders to withhold votes for the four directors that are up for election later this month. The Class B shareholders—those are largely Sulzberger family members—control the votes for the remaining nine directors on the board. So by telling Class A shareholders to withhold their votes, ISS is, obviously, telling the non-family shareholders to tell the Times that they don't like the way the company is being run.

ISS is not happy with the makeup of the Times' board, nothing that Vice-Chairman Michael Golden (Arthur Sulzberger Jr.'s cousin) "is among the most highly compensated executive officers of the company"; his sister, Lynn Dolnick, is also a director on the board.

ISS is also not thrilled by having Arthur Sulzberger Jr. in the dual roles of Chairman and Publisher, noting that it "further disenfranchises Class A shareholders by vesting the power of Chairman in an insider, Mr. Sulzberger... He is ultimately accountable to himself, both as Chairman and as a Class B shareholder. Neither he nor other members of the management team is accountable to the company's Class A shareowners in any meaningful way."

The Boardroom’s primary problem with the Sulzberger debacle has been flagging profitability. While the print media has been plagued by a mass-migration of readers from print to internet, BUT the N. Y. Times is on the internet, and it’s not that Leftists don’t do well on the internet, as some of the biggest daily blogs on the web are hard left.

And it’s not economic or demographic conditions either. US population is growing at a rate of almost 3 million per year and the economy has been expanding rapidly since 2003 (despite the Times predictions to the contrary). And it’s not local demographics, The New York Times, like the New York Post (which has seen its readership skyrocket over the same period) are both headquartered in New York City.

Many people, from pundits to investors have begun to consider that if the problem isn’t the global environment, the local environment, the labor environment, technology, the subscription model or regional conditions, perhaps it’s the newspaper.

Just ten days ago The New York Times Co. nominated two outside candidates to replace two directors after shareholders called for changes to the company's board and strategy.

Robert Denham, one of the nominees, is a partner in the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, and Dawn Lepore is the chief executive officer of Inc., an online provider of health and beauty products, New York Times said yesterday in a statement.

The two Hedge Funds that have been pushing the family-run NY Times for change, put out a statement that, according to Robert Willis (chief investment officer of Willis Investment Counsel in Gainesville, Georgia, which owns 500,000 New York Times shares), read in part, "These nominees yesterday offer a nice mixture but that doesn't satisfy the need to have directors that are more objective and perhaps not inclined to do everything from the family shareholders' perspective."

In the wake of the recent McCain smear, this could be a “do-or-die” move for either the NY Times or John McCain. IF the NY Times cannot significantly substantiate that embarrassingly “anonymously sourced” story, there may well be a corporate mutiny in the boardroom of the NY Times!


Seane-Anna said...

Change at the NY Times? America would be better served if the NY Times ceased to exist altogether.

JMK said...

It's not the NY Times, Seane-Anna, just as it's not CBS, ABC or NBC, it's the people running those outfits.

Of all of them, the Sulzbergers are, in my opinion, the worst!

NBC is a close second, right now, but the Sulzberger-run NY Times is, I believe, the worst of them all.

The GOOD NEWS is that the shareholders of the NY Times Company are in near revolt and have been for a long time now. The stock is doing poorly, circulation continues to short, there is very real possibility for real, meaningful change at that currently fetid organization.

Like most people and things on the Left, I'd rather convert it than kill it.

Uncle Joe said...

The "Oprah" mentality is alive and well. The MSM has become what they erroneously accuse Fox News of being. Competitors to Fox News have accused them of being wildly biased to the right. They cite as evidence Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and John Gibson. What they don't point out is the fact that those guys are commentators and do not claim to be news anchors. So, to claim that Fox News shows are biased based upon the content of commentators' shows is ridiculous.

Now, MSNBC has been putting Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann on to host shows that masquerade as news programs. They are blurring the line between commentary and hard news and people are dumb enough to let them get away with it... for now. But, this story by the NYT is just another example of why people don't read it as much any more. They may be thinking, "Well, Oprah is doing well, so if we can't beat them let's join them."

BTW - The Fox News channel is a bit too "tabloid" for me sometimes but they do a better job of giving all sides their say than the other channels. And, don't even get me started on the covert feud going on between MSNBC and Fox News. It is so obvious that orders have come down from the top in both organizations that they should take as many pot shots at each other as possible.

JMK said...

You're 100% right about News and Commentary Uncle Joe - Talk Radio makes no bones about the fact that is COMMENTARY, so do the likes of O'Reilly, Hannity and Savage.

Newspapers do delineate their Op-Eds from their news stories, BUT in most news stories over the past thirty, forty years, there's been increasing "commentary creep."

It started with the kinds of words used in various news stories, phraseology that implied guilt (before any evidenciary determination was made), to now, where almost EVERY news story, in both print and broadcast media, is rancid with overt commentary - NOT merely a "tone and tenor," but actual lines of running commenatry placed within the article.

Keith Olbermann is pathetic. His ratings are indeed worse than the ones Phil Donahue had, in the very same time slot.

He isn't quite a "commentator" because he doesn't appear to understand the issues at all, before giving his inane opinions, but he's hardly "news" either.

Their are an awful lot of people who've been loyal sheep to the MSM and have accepted the MSM's attacks on their more moderate rivals as legitimate.

In almost EVERY case, these dopes are completely unaware that at least 40% of any given NY Times NEWS piece is now comprised of commentary. They'll sit and listen to a NEWS anchor give his opinions and accept that as "part of the news."

Fox News is a business first and its run by a guy who knows how to make money...and lots of it. Yes, they are too tabloid, and they do go heavy for the glitz and fluff, same as CNN and MSNBC (that seems part of the 24 hour news syndrome), but they're gearing their product for the widest appeal possible and while Murdoch may (I'm not certain, but he may) be more Center-Right than most media titans, he's certainly more atuned to mass marketing than any ideological appeal.

I think, early on, Murdoch saw an opening by veering slightly Right of the other stations. Fox news hired O'Reilly and Hannity as lead Commentators, but their news content was pretty much undistuinguishable from CNNs news content.

What I guess I'm saying is that there seems to be little particular ideological preference coming from Mr Murdoch the way there is from "Pinchy" Sulzberger.

I believe that had the opening been seen as Left-of-Center, Rupert Murdoch would've happily jumped in THAT breach to take advantage of whatever opportunity existed to break into that market.

Webb Sloane said...

"I believe that had the opening been seen as Left-of-Center, Rupert Murdoch would've happily jumped in THAT breach to take advantage of whatever opportunity existed to break into that market."

There is no question about that. I think there are some "conservative" commentators and radio show hosts who are the same way. And while Ann Coulter may be a "true believer", she most certainly says outrageous things in hopes of adding to her bottom line.

JMK said...

"I think there are some "conservative" commentators and radio show hosts who are the same way. And while Ann Coulter may be a "true believer", she most certainly says outrageous things in hopes of adding to her bottom line." (Webb Sloane)

That's very true, for the most part, commentators and newspeople are entertainers first and foremost. Just as much of the Left-leaning media are largely jealous of the popularity that Conservative commentators have garnered from the majority of Americans (Conservatives and tradionalists), they were and are happy with the fame and fortune that came with working for the Left-leaning media.

Today, Chris Wallace, Mike Wallace's son, happily works for FoxNews.

I think the view of the majority of the mass media is that they don't really have all that much influence, so they aren't doing that much harm, and besides, if America's Founder's Design can't survive an adversarial mass media, it was doomed anyway.

It's a nice rationalization.

Uncle Joe said...

The Internet is making it harder on the MSM to play their games. On the other hand, the Internet is also giving voice to whackos (,, etc.) that used to have no way to be heard as loudly.

"The press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Seymour, 1807.

JMK said...

Great Jefferson quote...and it seems to hold as the NY Times has lost the bulk of the credibility it once had.

The internet suffers from the problem that anhy open forum does, it lets in and puts on the same level field, the engineer and the 9-11 Truther kook.

It is, as all markets really are, a "Buyer beware" proposition.

All in all, it's been a positive change. Just ending the MSM monopoly on information was a momentoruly positive development.

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