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January 20, 2017 / 22 Tevet, 5777
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Debt Ridden NY Times Squeezing Writers, Golden Parachuting CEOs

Remember how the NYT lionized the Occupy Wall Street vigilantes? What a shock to learn about the barrels-full of money it has thrown at its own bigwigs.

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Is it time to say kaddish for the New York Times?

Investors in the paper may already be doing so.  The last time they received a dividend was in late 2008.

The NYT, considered by many to be the global paper of record, has incurred more than $300 million in net losses since 2005, and its advertising revenues have been declining for five consecutive years.

In fact, the paper’s own financial report made headlines when its third quarter revenues were so much worse than expected that the value of its shares plummeted 22 percent, its biggest one-day drop in at least thirty years.  Investors were warned to expect dismal news for the next quarter, as well.

But while the newspaper industry as a whole has been in a funk for years – with Internet news, blogs, and other ’round the clock news sources available—many for free—there are elements of the NYT‘s precarious financial position that make it unique.

The most significant is the stench of hypocrisy hovering over the differences in the way the NYT handles its executives versus its writers.

Remember how the New York Times lionized the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street vigilantes?  What a shock to learn about the barrels-full of money it has thrown at even departing bigwigs, while keeping its proletariat writers at stagnated pay levels, and, in the words of its own union leaders, trying repeatedly to “decimate their health plan.”

For nearly two years, the daily writers at the New York Times (whose union members are represented by the Newspaper Guild of New York), have been working without a contract. Those approximately 1100 workers have repeatedly been met with what they have described as “draconian” efforts to force not only pay cuts and alterations to their health and pension plans, but also forced, unpaid, increases in their work week.

In fact, less than two weeks ago, on Oct. 8, approximately 400 NYT reporters staged a brief walkout because the sides were so far apart and the writers felt increasingly under siege.  In a video interview during that walkout, a member of the union talks about the paper’s hypocrisy.  In a July editorial, the Times attacked Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for his anti-union activity, saying:

“Labor, so long in decline in the private sector, is also losing its clout in states and cities, unable to match or withstand the unfettered bank accounts of industry. The people who kept Mr. Walker and his policies in power are just getting started.”

And yet, the NYT writers have been stonewalled for nearly two years, with management doing its best during that time to wring out still more concessions from them.

At the same time that the Times has been refusing to increase salaries or benefits by even a minimal amount, it has been throwing multiple millions of dollars at its top executives, past and future, this year alone.

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. is the great-grandson of the founder and owner of the New York Times Co.  He is the Chairman of the board of the NYT and its publisher.  Sulzberger appointed Janet Robinson CEO of the paper in 2004. Robinson had spent nearly twenty years rising through the ranks on the business side of the paper, and was long viewed as a quiet complement to her boss.

Although the NYT is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange, it is, essentially, a family-owned business, and in addition to rapidly declining corporate financial health, alleged competition from family members in executive positions led to Robinson’s abrupt ouster in December, 2011.

And while the NYT allowed the door to hit her backside on her way out, the bundle of dough they threw after Robinson must have made for a somewhat softer landing.  Her severance package amounted to nearly $24 million — more than the company earned in the previous four years.

But that’s not all the paper has given away to bigwigs in the last year.  The new CEO, Mark Thompson, is about to slide into place in early November, with his path greased by a total pay package of $10.5 million.  That package includes a signing bonus worth as much as $4.5 million.

Thompson’s new annual salary is an increase from what he made at his last position, as the director general of the British Broadcasting Corp.  His role in that position was to cut jobs and save money through office and plant consolidation.  That reputation isn’t likely to make him a hit with staff writers.

The NYT  announced this week, just days before Thompson is set to come on board, that it has reached a tentative agreement with the Newspaper Guild.  Nothing, it has been repeatedly stressed, is yet set in stone, let alone laid out on paper, concerning this agreement.  Nevertheless, the Guild’s president Bill O’Meara, wrote that “the agreement preserves the workers’ pensions, protects medical benefits and boosts compensation.”

Interesting that an agreement — no matter how tentative — would have been entered into before the new CEO arrives.  Given Thompson’s past experience, it is hard to imagine he was hired to do more than continue his practice of slashing costs.  The union probably should have gotten the terms in writing before agreeing to allow the issuance of a press release announcing the deal.

So Robinson and Thompson get millions of dollars. Robinson was paid to get out, while Thompson will be paid to make the lowly writers miserable enough to get out.

And this, from an October, 2011 NYT editorial rhapsodizing over the Occupy Wall Street mission:

Income gains at the top would not be as worrisome as they are if the middle class and the poor were also gaining. But working-age households saw their real income decline in the first decade of this century. The recession and its aftermath have only accelerated the decline.

Research shows that such extreme inequality correlates to a host of ills, including lower levels of educational attainment, poorer health and less public investment. It also skews political power, because policy almost invariably reflects the views of upper-income Americans versus those of lower-income Americans.

Tell that to the union. And perhaps the members will say kaddish.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the JewishPress.com. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com

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Imported and Older Comments:

  1. Hallelujah, they are dying, they are paying for the lies they have told.

  2. Arie Rosenrauch says:

    Al Gore's Current TV! Haaretz! The NY Times! One after the other – Jew hating media is going bankrupt. No one is willing to pay for organized venal Jew hatred anymore. Even not the most liberal of US Jews.

    On the bright side (sic), al jazeera and ma'an will now be able to source from a plethora of goebbles' trained "pundits" and propagandists.

  3. Daniel J. Sieradski says:

    Leave it to the Jewish Press to find yet another reason to take a needless swipe at Occupy for standing up for social and economic justice. You guys should merge with the NY Post.

  4. Charlie Hall says:

    A lot of the Occupy movement were people who were genuinely concerned for economic justice, but a lot of them were anarchists who don't want economic anything. And to make matters worse, Ron Paul supporters came in and tried to hijack the movement with their nihilistic anti-Semitic nonsense. Finally, the Occupiers wore out their welcome in many of their encampments by their disregard for basic health and safety. One can stand for social and economic justice without thinking that Occupy did anything to further either.

  5. Charlie Hall says:

    Do the statistics in the article refer to the newspaper or the entire company?

  6. Alice Derman says:

    Most individuals, liberal moderate or conservative, act in their own best economic interests. The New York Times is a business and it does what most businesses do…look after its own profits and pay high salaries to its leaders. The fact that many of its editors and writers espouse a moderately liberal national and world viewpoint is irrelevant. Regardless of any of this, the New York Times is one of the greatest newspapers in the world and I hope it manages to survive. Its problems reflect the changes that have occurred in the news industry in general and have nothing to do with its political orientation. The Chicago Tribune, which leans more to the right, is having similar problems. And Smart Money recently ceased publishing its print edition. At least the owners of the NYT are not mired in criminal indictments like the owners of the Wall Street Journal and Fox.

  7. Rc Fowler says:

    Leave it to an ignorant fool like you D.J.S. to believe the lies about Occupy–if you do not like the truth then don't come to this website!

  8. Daniel J. Sieradski says:

    uh, i'm the guy who built the first structure in zuccotti park during ows — a sukkah — and organized a thousand person yom kippur service there. i also organized the rosh hashanah service on the 1 year anniversary of ows this past september. i don't need to believe lies, i only need to open my eyes and look to see a movement that is fulfilling the words of the prophets of israel, while i watch the frum community of nyc heap hatred on everyone who isn't just like them.

  9. Rc Fowler says:

    Charlie Hall Mr. Hall–none of those involved with the occupy movement were genuinely concerned about justice–most if not all of them were useful idiots of the Marxists who sent them there; and there is no such thing as "economic justice", or "social justice"–these are code words for Marxism–there is no justice in Marxism, as it enslaves every nation foolish enough to embrace it!

    And once again Mr. Hall you have proven your ignorance and Godless immorality!

  10. Daniel J. Sieradski says:

    oh and in the meantime, occupy is leading the mobilization of relief efforts in the hardest hit areas of nyc. just check out what we're up to at http://facebook.com/occupyjudaism.

  11. Rc Fowler says:

    The sooner the NYTimes is dead and gone the better–they have a long history of promoting all forms of Marxism and anti-Semitism in the USA!

  12. Rc Fowler says:

    The accomplishments you have outlined–are irrelevant to this discussion and unimpressive.

    You don't need to believe lies–and yet you do–the Godless Marxism of the occupy fools–who also voiced their hatred for Israel–is not of the God of the Bible.

  13. Daniel J. Sieradski says:

    Look in your Bible. No one hates Israel's cruel oppression of the poor and the stranger more than God. But that's neither here nor there. Go bow to your true god: Capitalism. Gut shabbes.

  14. Charlie Hall says:

    'there is no such thing as "economic justice", or "social justice"'

    The authors of the Torah and the Talmud disagree with you.

  15. Arie Rosenrauch says:

    "needless swipe?" By attacking the neo-nazis of OWS? Or by attacking the Episcopalian Ochs-Sulzberger families that have spent the past 7 decades demonizing and attacking all things Jewish. You built the "first structure?" Probably also the first to take a crap in the park on a police car – all the while demanding we "entitle" you to the iPhone V, iPad, and FREE obamaphones. Tell the truth Daniel, your angst in posting is not about the Jewish Press article about the demise of the Times (long overdue and I shall be throwing a party for it) but about your leeching days coming to an end. NOW…let's see how you afford all those things WE the taxpayers have to work for.

  16. Arie Rosenrauch says:

    I wish to make sure EVERYONE corrects a misconception about the Ochs & Sulzberger families: They are NOT Jewish!! They finally went with their long held Antisemitic family vision and converted to the Episcopal Church. And we Jews are grateful that there is no longer any misconception as to the true beliefs and intentions of such a Jew hating canard promoting family

  17. Daniel J. Sieradski says:

    wonderful reader community you've created here for yourself, jewish week. you should be proud.

  18. Daniel J. Sieradski says:

    pardon me, jewish press.

  19. Arie Rosenrauch says:

    @Daniel: "But that's neither here nor there. Go bow to your true god: Capitalism. "

    We appreciate your pointing out that your commentary, just like the foundation of OWS and the NY Times is based in naught more then true old-fashioned Mein Kampf inspired Jew hatred. Daniel would volunteer to be the first to light the ovens at a "new" auschwitz to burn us off.

    Again, thank you for that candor

  20. Daniel J. Sieradski says:

    go see a shrink.

  21. Arie Rosenrauch says:

    Daniel J. Sieradski "onderful reader community you've created here for yourself, jewish week. you should be proud."

    Like the 12th imam wannabe obama and adolf that Daniel admires so, they have a definitive hatred of anyone daring to oppose their thought, prejudices, hatreds, and outright venal behavior.

    Much to your chagrin danny boy, we do not bow to the massas of the ANP/KKK inspired OWS nor to the 12th imam wannabe you obviously bow to daily. We support the US Constitution – even your right to be a Jew hating fascist; we support laws; we support the belief that if you want something you work for it, not expect to "legally" steal it thru some Executive Order by obama. You obviously prefer a more "gimme" lifestyle. Perhaps then, your momma should throw you out of her basement and give you a one-way ticket to Cairo, Kabul, or Pyongyang.

    But do understand danny: I do pity you. What will you do when the forced largesse of the WORKING US public evaporates in a few days besides laying down on the floor of momma's cold basement floor crying screaming and pulling on your hair?

    G-D have mercy on your beleaguered soul!

  22. Charlotta Jones says:


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