Wednesday, April 15, 2009

VF's Mark Bowden: Arthur Sulzberger Jr. Has To Be Feeling Desperate

(image via esquire)

Vanity Fair's Mark Bowden was on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show to talk about his piece on New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr’s struggle in the digital age. Bowden said that "Sulzberger has to be feeling desperate" considering the loss of ad revenues and the relative state of the company. Bowden, who was writing on the wars in Somalia, turned his attention to Sulzberger in the May 2009 edition of VF. "I think he's every journalists dream of a publisher," Bowden said of Sulzberger, "...he continues to shelter the newsroom with the best of his abilities from this economic downturn. ... journalists respect him and love Arthur's values."

The business side of the paper, Bowden notes, feels differently. "If you're going bankrupt, you can't keep a newspaper alive and do the kind of journalism you want to do."

The failure to diversify is an issue Bowden kept returning to. "I do think one of the failures of The New York Times," he told Lopate, "is the lack to bringing their brand to television." Bowden brought up examples of the Wall St. Journal, a competitor of the Gray lady. "The New York Times being the brand that it is ought to have gotten into the cable news business earlier."

Earlier this month Bill Keller, Executive Editor of The New York times, responded to the Vanity Fair article, saying, in part:

"Last year readers paid The New York Times more than $600 million to buy our newspaper. In a world of declining everything, our circulation revenue has gone up. That's people paying good money for good journalism. And it buys us time to answer the existential question of our business, which is how we assure that journalism continues to pay. I'll bet on Arthur Sulzberger finding the answer to that question before Mark Bowden does."

Mark Bowden's response to that response: "I would hope that Arthur comes up with an answer to these questions than I would because I don't have an answer."

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