The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘They Just Want the Money’

Posted on | April 23, 2012 | 18 Comments

Walter Russell Mead finds amusement in New York Times employees — members of the Writers Guild union — whining about a proposal to substitute 401(k)s for their current bloated pension plan:

Nobody in the video talks about the changes in the news business that threatens to drive the Times into a deep dive. Nobody talks about the prospect of future significant staff cuts if costs can’t be contained. None of them discuss the incongruity between their own naive sense of entitlement and what is going on in the cities, companies and countries they cover.
They just want the money.
Some writers allude to the prospect of leaving the paper if the pension change goes through, but a quick check of the newspaper business suggests they don’t have all that many options. Certainly with the exception of a handful of superstars the New York Times would have less trouble replacing its current staff than the current staff would have in replacing their jobs. And if those new jobs are in journalism, good luck finding a company with a generous defined benefit pension plan.

Indeed. Perhaps the NYT’s grumbling newsroom proletariat should read about working conditions for young bloggers at the Washington Post.

The days of easy money and “banker’s hours” in the news business are definitely over, and the Writers Guild mentality is part of the problem, not part of the solution. I’m reminded of a line from Ghostbusters, after they’ve lost their university research gigs:

Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities. We didn’t have to produce anything. You’ve never been out of college! You don’t know what it’s like out there! I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results.

Too many people in the upper echelons of the news industry never had a reason to think about the bottom line. The first newspaper I ever worked for — a tiny weekly in Austell, Georgia — went out of business five months after I started there. There was no warning; I went out to cover a high-school football game on Friday night and on Saturday morning got a phone call telling me to come pick up my final paycheck.

My next job was selling menswear in a department store.

That experience in 1986 was an early and unpleasant introduction to the economic reality of the news business, a valuable lesson that might have something to do with whatever success I’ve subsequently had. Many citizen-journalists have a much better understanding of economic reality than do the members of the Writers Guild.

Da Tech Guy has some interesting suggestions about the intersection of Old School journalism and New Media. He knows what a hard dollar it can be — please don’t forget to hit his tip jar.

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Comments

  • http://twitter.com/richard_mcenroe richard mcenroe

    The New York Times could replace its current staff at McDonald’s. Certainly there are enough journalism majors working there.

    And, “INTO a steep dive?”  WTF is the Times on now, a smooth glide into DFW?

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

    The only reason the Times hasn’t already folded is because of an infusion of capital it got a few years ago from some Mexican billionaire, allegedly the wealthiest man in the world. I don’t know whether it was an act of charity (unlikely), or because he thought the Times needed to continue as a useful tool of the Left, or whether he actually, honestly thought he could salvage it and turn it around. Whatever his reasons, there’s no doubt he bought it some time.

  • Finrod Felagund

    This is what happens when “I’m alright, Jack” fails.

  • Anamika

    The news media, we know
    will distort as much as possible, loving the chaos they create. If the
    general public lied as much as the news media, just about every citizen
    would be locked up for disorderly conduct!

  • http://twitter.com/DaTechGuyblog Peter Ingemi

    I am working on a follow up piece to the one you linked.  It would be done now but I’m working on some actual reporting to give it meat.

  • Adobe_Walls

    The last guy in the video had some very workable suggestions I recommend he go with the last one.
    To me the most glaring example of how out of touch these clowns are isn’t that they’ve lived in a bubble as to the changes in the news industry but they actually believe that they are “the best and the brightest” producing the “best product”. If the NYT with out any announcement simply disappeared tomorrow who outside of NYC would even notice?

  • http://powip.com vermontaigne
  • TR

    Still waiting for RSM and the 1 million hits to show up at 2AM on cable.  But WAIT, for just an additional shipping and handling …..

  • http://proteinwisdom.com/ McGehee

    If by “DFW” you mean this airport

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    The Evening News programs at CBS, NBC, and ABC, since they get their program content from TNYT.

  • JeffS

    McDonald’s is too classy for any former NYT employee.  I’m thinking they could turn into ultra cheap sex workers.  Lord knows they sold their souls for a handful of dimes.

  • Adobe_Walls

    Your point?

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

     It’s the guy who owns the telephone monopoly in Mexico.  They structured the deal something like a loan with stock as collateral, but it was business from his point of view as he gets a much higher interest on his money than he could from normal bonds or preferred stocks.  NYTCo paid him the interest for the first period and renewed the deal, I assume they are still paying the interest.

    ALL the NYT cares about is preserving the fortune of the Sulzberger-Ochs family which owns it – some 200+ family members depend on the dividends as their sole source of income.  The employees mean nothing to them, and that is certainly justified.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

    Before their bailout by a Mexican billionaire, before the recession, before the real estate bubble burst, financial analysts noticed some years ago that the total capitalization of the NYT – the value of all their stock at market value – was LESS than the value of their assets, mostly prime Manhattan real estate. 

    That meant a couple of things.  First of all, the newspaper and employees actually LOWERED the value of the company.  Secondly, such a situation is a red flag for corporate takeover artists like Buffet or Romney to come in and sell off the assets. 

    That couldn’t happen to NYT because the Sulzberger-Ochs families control the class of stock that actually owns the company.  But the realization could certainly have made investors who hadn’t sold get out fast, sending their equity into a death spiral. 

    That’s when they sought the bailout.  But the underlying weakness remains.  The money has kept them afloat, but it can never rebuild NYT into a viable company.  

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

     If it was that important to them you’d think they’d do a house cleaning and do something to make the paper profitable. In order to do that they’d have to make it popular, and to do that they’d have to make the damn thing readable. It’s turned into a joke to all but the liberal and moderate left. The hard left hates it as much as conservatives. For a bunch of people that allegedly only care about money, they sure don’t seem to have much of a business sense.

    How hard can it be to try for a different business model? It’s obvious the one they have now isn’t working for them. Of course there’s always the possibility that what they are doing now is just the first step leading up to such a change, but I wouldn’t count on it.

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

     He must be on tranquilizers, he’s actually coherent for once. Wrong, but at least comprehensible.

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