New York Times publisher and genial buffoon Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger is not worried about how his newspaper's circulation sucks and the share price is at a historic low. You know why? Because Craig Newmark, the guy who invented Cragslist and destroyed the newspaper revenue stream, just got a Times subscription! So hey, no worries, Times staffers. If there's one thing Pinch has learned since he took over as publisher 16 years ago, it's to always mention the moose in the room. But not to bring an actual moose with him anymore.
The "moose in the room" is one of those unbearably stupid management book stories, in which a moose ends up at a dinner party or something and no one at the table has the nerves to ask why the moose is there. See, the moose represents big problems that no one wants to talk about. So you are always supposed to mention the moose in the room. Get it? The whole thing is asinine.
Of course, Sulzberger is big into management fads and business book bullshit (as we said, buffoon). And back when the Jayson Blair scandal was rocking the Times newsroom, he did this (per Seth Mnookin's Hard News):
Now, though, he thinks that was maybe a mistake.
In an infamous incident, Mr. Sulzberger showed up at a company crisis meeting holding a toy stuffed moose. It was a gimmick meant to symbolize things that people were afraid to say, but nobody was in the mood for goofy shtick.
He wouldn't repeat it. "Obviously not," he said. "The anger that came out of that meeting, it was so palpable that the moose wasn't a necessary tool, it became clear," he said. "It just wasn't. Now, it had proven necessary in other situations, but it wasn't in that one, so no.
"But look, if that's the biggest mistake I make as leader of The New York Times Co., this is a good thing."
Ha ha "the moose wasn't a necessary tool." And you should know about useless tools, Pinch! It's a testament to Pinch's unwavering ability to miss the point that he doesn't realize the Moose Incident wasn't one bad decision but rather a lovely symbol of how incredibly out of touch he is-with his own newsroom, with the state of media today, with the national mood. Former Times reporter John Darnton just published an entertaining murder mystery set at a newspaper that bears some resemblance to the Times. Here's how he paints the publisher of his fictional newspaper:
The prizes and revenue poured in. it was like standing on the bridge of an aircraft carrier and believing that you, not the ocean were actually keeping the damn thing afloat. But now, with the Internet, the blogs, MSNBC, fifteen minute news cycles, giveaway papers in the subway-Christ, you turn around for a moment and the whole damn world is different. A cliché, maybe, but it's true. Just two days ago, he asked Rosen, one of his two sons, a computer geek, to introduce him to some sites; he read a smattering of them (superficial.com, gawker.com, defamer.com) and he was aghast. Where the hell did it come from, this abiding compulsion to read about breakups and breakdowns of third-rate celebrities? To pursue them into restaurants and nightclubs as they turned bulimic or cheated on their partners or adopted African babies? And written in a spirit of such spite (he didn't know the word schadenfreude). "That's the whole point, Dad," his son had said laughing condescendingly. "You've got to be snarky."
But in this book is the seed of the actual good news for Times reporters. The paper is still a great springboard to actual media success. They've taken recently to building personalities out of their contributors. It's a break from Times tradition, and a welcome one. Does it matter whatever Warren St. John's actual salary and position at the Times are? No, not so much. What matters for Warren is how effective the paper is at promoting his book, and his brand. What is David Carr? A film vlogger...? And now addiction memoirist? He's whatever the hell he wants to be at the New York Times, which is good news for people who enjoy his writing, and good news for his Amazon ranking.
Is it good news for the Times? Who the hell knows. Pinch sure doesn't.