Is the New York Times getting too big?
It’s crowding out the competition, says paper’s new media columnist
IN THE WORLD of journalism, everyone’s talking about the debut media column of Ben Smith at the New York Times.
Smith recounts how six years ago, when he was the editor at BuzzFeed News, he tried to hire A.G. Sulzberger, who at the time was the heir apparent to lead the New York Times. The Times then was on the skids, its stock sinking. The company was selling just about everything it owned to stay afloat. (That’s how John Henry acquired the Boston Globe and the Telegram & Gazette in 2013 at the bargain basement price of $70 million.)
Now the Times is thriving. The news organization has more digital subscribers than the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the 250 local Gannett papers combined. It employs 1,700 journalists, according to Smith, and the starting salary for a reporter is $104,600.
Many of the journalists who just a few years ago were going to create a new future for journalism are now working for the Times, including Smith. “I spent my whole career competing against the Times, so coming to work here feels a bit like giving in. And I worry that the success of the Times is crowding out the competition,” he writes
On Twitter, Mitch Pugh, the executive editor of the Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, rejected the notion that the success of the New York Times is a troubling sign for local news outlets.
“Boston, Minneapolis and Seattle have thriving digital subscription businesses,” Pugh tweeted. “The numbers we need are achievable. But the better question is: What, exactly, is the alternative?”Elizabeth Green, the cofounder of Chalkbeat, a nonprofit education news organization, tweeted a cautionary response. “Monopoly is far less of two evils when alternative is no journalism,” she said. “But the misapplied success of their digital subscription business to local news, where it won’t work, is dangerous!”
Derek Wallbank, a senior editor at Bloomberg, tweeted an interesting take. “If NYT has found a solution for running a newspaper (invest in journalism, drive online $), and it works, then will investors demand that Gannett & others running the strategy of “job cuts + dividends & hope” change course?”