Magazine

What New York Times Readers Really Want


I am 82 years old and have been a New York Times reader for most of them ("The future of The New York Times," Cover Story, Jan. 17). On its worst day, The New York Times has been the best newspaper in the world. Neither the Jayson Blair nor the Howell Raines experiences nor anything else have been more than momentary scratches on the long-established, long-earned, and long-deserved stature of the Times as an extraordinary institution of extraordinary importance to our country and the world. BusinessWeek (MHP) dares to suggest that the wonderful tradition of the Ochs-Sulzberger family -- past, present, and future -- in recognizing the far greater importance of the Times as a newspaper is less important than the current multiple of its stock.

I fully recognize the need for the Times to continue to be a profitable business and to expand its role in the world of communications. But I am certain of, and I am proud of, the Ochs-Sulzberger tradition that I know will ignore the world of pressure for higher multiples -- and will do everything to sustain the reality that The New York Times is not just another corporation but a one-of-a-kind institution of far greater importance.

Bernard Loomis

Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

What I find least compelling about Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.'s positioning of The New York Times is his assertion that news coverage in this paper is shaped by an "urban environment" and "not red state vs. blue state" politics. I subscribe to the Times not because I agree with its politics, but because I strongly disagree. The New York Times is clearly Fox News (NWS) on its head, which is why I continue to sweat through a daily ritual of reading the Times, and kick back to relax with The Wall Street Journal while watching Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity.

Matthew Silpe

New York

As a centrist, I have watched with dismay how the Times switched from center-left toward the left. The editorials have lost their equilibrium, the featured columnists have turned tiresome and marginalized, except for Thomas L. Friedman and David Brooks. Even though I did not vote for George W. Bush, I resent the unbalanced reporting during the election. A publisher's personal biases have no place in a newsroom.

Frederic Goldsmith

New York

I started picking up The New York Times when I traveled extensively in my job. I truly looked upon it as a "national newspaper." When my traveling slowed, I had a subscription delivered to my home. As I often remarked, I got the Times for the news and Baltimore's The Sun to see what was on sale and what was playing at the movies. I knew that the Times was blatantly liberal but accepted that as long as it was primarily confined to the editorial pages. About three years ago I noticed a shift. I canceled my subscription this summer when I could no longer accept the paper's obvious liberal stance in all its sections.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr. should confine his liberal stance to the editorial page -- which as a reader I can choose to read or not read. Otherwise, The New York Times will become a second-rate, politically oriented paper, not unlike the Baltimore Sun, another paper with a grand tradition that is a mere shadow of its former self.

Sal Castorina

Baltimore

Anthony Bianco missed one of the major revenue holes that both The New York Times and The Boston Globe have suffered. A look back at the sheer size of their voluminous and very profitable Sunday "Help Wanted" sections in the mid-to-late '90s vs. the meager presences that they are today, speaks volumes. The trouble? They have gotten eaten by a monster -- www.monster.com (MNST)!

James J. Treacy

Glen Rock, N.J.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr.'s dilemma as to whether online readers of The New York Times should pay a fee shows that the Gray Lady has yet to catch up with reality. What Sulzberger does not appreciate is how many online readers are also subscribers. I prefer to read the Times online rather than scamper about my lawn trying to find where the paper has been left. I leave it for the family to read. And, as anyone who reads the Times knows, an advantage of the online edition is that it does not come off on the reader's hands.

Donald E. Simon

Bronx, N.Y.

Are you telling me that in these days in which information is king that neither the Audit Bureau of Circulations nor The New York Times knows how many of the papers sold in 2003 were distributed within and outside of the New York area? I work for an airline, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that we know where our 2003 customers boarded our airplanes and where we took them.

Michael J. Smola

Tyrone, Ga.

Here's an idea to help The New York Times boost print circulation: comics. Print a really good assortment like The Washington Post, instead of the puny page-and-a-half found in The Boston Globe.

Bradley Leland

Newton, Mass.

Corrections and Clarifications

The letter from James J. Treacy (Readers Report, Feb. 7) replying to "The future of The New York Times" (Cover Story, Jan. 17), neglected to disclose his former affiliation as president and chief operating officer of TMP Worldwide (now Monster Worldwide).

Re Michael Mandel's commentary "Our hidden savings" (News: Analysis & Commentary, Jan 17): The pitifully low personal saving rate in the U.S. is going to create financial hardship for tens of millions of seniors in the next few decades. The ratio of payroll taxpayers to Social Security beneficiaries will fall from 3.3 to 1 to 2 to 1 over the next 25 years. The system will have to be revised, and the age of eligibility will have to be increased to 70 or higher. Thus, people will have to rely more heavily on their personal nest eggs, and this is the problem. Although Mandel shows that household wealth is now back to where it was five years ago, wealth is highly skewed in this country. Data show that the wealthiest 20% of households own over 90% of household net worth, and the remaining 80% of households own less than 10%. Most boomers will still be working in their 70s and 80s.

Edward M. Syring Jr.

Gulf Stream, Fla.

Editor's Note: The writer is former economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and former chief economist with Marine Midland Bank and E.F. Hutton.

The measurement of savings is a statistical minefield, and it is possible to come up with many alternative definitions that show a higher savings rate than the official measure. A key U.S. problem is that domestic savings are insufficient to finance domestic investment, forcing the U.S. to rely excessively on borrowing from abroad. If investment and thus savings are understated by an equal amount, then this problem is unaffected.

Martin Barnes

Managing Editor

The Bank Credit Analyst

Montreal

In "CBO Chief warns: Time to choose" (Capital Wrapup, Jan. 17), you assert: "Of course, the U.S. grew its way out of huge deficits in the '90s." If only it were that easy. Actually, what turned deficits to surpluses were the politically brave efforts of the first President Bush and President Bill Clinton, each of whom worked with a Democrat-run Congress to enact five-year packages of about $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts. The roaring economy of the '90s, producing tax revenues beyond expectations, surely enhanced the effort. But responsible fiscal policy helped cut interest rates, thus fueling the strong economy in the first place. The record deficits of that time would not have simply disappeared in the absence of good policy.

Lawrence J. Haas

Potomac, Md.

Editor's Note: The writer was communications director to the Office of Management & Budget under President Clinton.

"Wanted: New weapons against an old killer" (International Business, Jan. 17) is correct in stating that malaria kills about 1.5 million people per year. I'm surprised that the authors did not mention returning to the use of DDT. No chemical in history has saved more lives than DDT and few, if any, have a better safety record. The world has searched for a new weapon against malaria for over 30 years. None have been found as effective as DDT or as inexpensive, and some have significant side effects.

Paul C. Williams

Medina, Ohio

"Death, taxes, and Sarbanes-Oxley" (News: Analysis & Commentary, Jan. 17) is a good summary of where business stands today. However, a bigger question is whether such regulations address the destruction of shareholder value. Recent analysis by Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. shows that more shareholder value was destroyed between 1998 and 2003 by strategic mismanagement and poor execution than was lost in all the compliance scandals combined. Only 13% of destroyed value came from compliance failures, while 87% was the result of strategic and operational errors. Regulators may have missed the mark, but we see a new leadership moment for business in 2005.

James A. Newfrock Senior Director

Booz Allen Hamilton

Parsippany, N.J.


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