Is the New York Times getting too big?

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

It’s a provocative idea, that the New York Times is growing so big (it’s now trying to acquire Serial Productions, the podcast studio) that pretty soon no one else is going to be able to compete. Smith quotes Jim VandeHei, the founder of Axios, who predicts the New York Times is going to be a monopoly. “The Times will get bigger and the niche will get nichier, and nothing else will survive,” he said.

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?”

BRUCE MOHL


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BEACON HILL

There’s a new No. 1 among lobbying firms on Beacon Hill. Get the breakdown of the top firms and spenders. (CommonWealth)

Activists rally for more state money to fund higher education. (State House News Service)

A Herald editorial backs a bill to provide state IDs for homeless families and youth.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A proposal to provide $150,000 in city funds for a brewery and taproom in Pittsfield is gaining support. (Berkshire Eagle)

Peter Skorput, the fire chief in West Stockbridge, settles ethics charges against him by paying a $5,000 fine and admitting he set stipends for family members who are firefighters and retaliating against a firefighter who filed a complaint against him. (Berkshire Eagle)

ELECTIONS

With no rules in place on spending or disclosure, the fight for control of the GOP state committee turns nasty, with both sides accusing each other of sleazy actions.  Even the two sides are a bit murky,  but Gov. Charlie Baker seems to be pitted against state GOP chair Jim Lyons. (CommonWealth)

Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin predicts turnout of 1.85 million in Tuesday’s presidential primary, and suggests voters concerned about the coronavirus bring their own pen to the polls rather than using the pens everyone else uses. (CommonWealth)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren made her pre-Super Tuesday pitch on Boston Public Radio. (WGBH)

Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar both drop out of the presidential race and endorse Joe Biden, who is trying to coalesce the support of moderates and catch front-runner Bernie Sanders. (Boston Globe)

MassLive asks: What happens if you voted early in the presidential primary for a candidate who dropped out?

EDUCATION

Boston Public Schools brace for release of a state review and recommendations of a district that has struggled on numerous fronts. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Massachusetts reports its second case of coronavirus. (MassLive) Colleges in Central Massachusetts are bringing students home from study abroad programs. (Telegram & Gazette) North Shore businesses report the coronavirus scare has been a “nuisance” but not critical so far, according to the Gloucester Daily Times.

Boston hospitals are preparing for a possible surge of coronavirus cases. (Boston Globe)

Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke is ending all inpatient psychiatric services and laying off 200 people. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

ARTS/CULTURE

The Wampanoag weave their story through the Wampum Belt Project (Cape Cod Times)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA pulled all new Orange Line cars from service this morning, citing a problem with their “bolsters,” the latest in a string of setbacks that have seen the new cars yanked for fixes. (Boston Globe) The Twitter stream is pretty entertaining.

The House transportation bill wants to raise fees on ride-sharing companies, but is insisting that new charges not be passed on to riders. (Boston Globe) A slew of amendments were filed to the bill, including one calling for the gas tax to be ratcheted up by 15 cents, not 5 cents, while increasing the earned income tax credit to offset the cost to lower-income workers. (Boston Herald) A Globe editorial voices support for the House bill.

A state push to promote the use of electric buses is facing obstacles. (State House News Service)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A coyote pack surrounds a woman and a large dog in Southborough. (MetroWest Daily News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The US Supreme Court agrees to hear a case that threatens the Affordable Care Act. (AP)

The Department of Correction settles a lawsuit by agreeing to provide three inmates with medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction. (Gloucester Daily Times)

MEDIA

The Texas Tribune, one of the nation’s premier nonprofit news sites, hires two new top editors.

Chris Matthews retires abruptly from MSNBC after a string of controversies. (CNN) Media critic Dan Kennedy says Matthews was always a “sexist blowhard.” (Media Nation)

WWLP-22 News is returning to the Berkshires after an agreement was reached with Charter Communications. (MassLive)

PASSINGS

Former GE CEO Jack Welch, who grew up in Salem and was a proud UMass Amherst graduate, died at age 84. The Gloucester Daily Times examines his business legacy. The Salem News remembers a “son of Salem.” Welch left a complicated legacy of outsized business success, combined with ruthlessness and a record of environmental despoliation. The latter isn’t mentioned in the Globe but is the Washington Post.