We’re winning on 43rd Street! We finally got the insurgent leader from Morgan Stanley in New York, Hassan El-Masry (or “Elmasry,” as he likes to call himself), to retreat and dump his shares in the paper. NYTCo stock closed at a ten-year low, 18 and a few dimes.
“This is exactly what we have planned all along, of course,” a jubilant Adolph said this morning. “We bilk the little old ladies and the big investors who bought our stock in the $40s and $50s because they think they’re just like us–prominent, important, powerful. Then we tank the business and when the stock price starts hitting the carpet, we take the whole show private and keep the change. Offer the suckers a nickel a share–who cares? We don’t even have to buy anybody out. By the middle of next year, our common stock will be cheaper than the Sunday paper, but with better comics.”
He’s right! With predictions like that, Ochs can do the horoscope in the new, all-family-owned paper.
Meanwhile, somebody ought to get up an editorial urging the government to bail out Times investors.
Despite my objections, the paper yesterday announced a new blog–“The Board.” Screams “excitement”, doesn’t it? Pinch wanted to call it “Olympus,” but legal bumped into trademark problems.
Let me just say, I’ve been against this from the start. According to Pinch’s own blurb, “The Board” will be used for “providing commentary and background on each day’s editorials.” Excuse me? Can anyone up there spell “front page”? Do we really need a special blog for running commentary on our commentaries? What are we paying Sheryl Stolberg and Adam Nagourney for? What a waste of compromised talent!
Today, the company’s stock hit an all-time low: $18 and change. Coincidence?
The good news of the day: The farm guy, Verlyn Klinkenborg, finally got in line with the rest of us at the paper and came out against civility. About time! His sentimental reveries about chickens and his inane odes to goats just sucked, and was clearly the result of prolonged drug use. Maybe now somebody topside will set aside the kind of polite deference we habitually give the harmless and tell him to go straight to detox.
My old, old friend John Leonard went off his leveler:
Think of the entire nation as a distressed damsel. Think of Homeland Security as Wyatt Earp. Think of hate radio and Fox News as Sergio Leone. Think of geopolitics as a video game. Think of “Death Wish,” “High Noon,” original sin, alien abduction, demonic possession, zombies, vampires, satanic day-care child molesters and job-stealing immigrant hordes. There are other ways to look at 9/11, as anything from Armageddon to coup d’état. And other ways to account for an America so fearful that we feed the Bill of Rights to our Biggest Brother. Freud, Marx and Veblen are periscopes and magnifying glasses for oral fixation, overproduction and forced consumption. Through the green eyes of ecothink, nuclear winter and silent spring season the dread. Joseph Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” also comes to skittish mind. We are, besides, insecure and negligent in our parenthood and our citizenship, caught between a public sphere (bear garden, hippodrome, killing field) that feels hollow and a private sphere (sanctuary, holding cell) that feels besieged. We are no longer safe on the tribal streets, equally weightless in orbit or in cyberspace, tiddlywinks on the credit grid, lost and yet still stalked, void where prohibited. To the usual millennial heebie-jeebies, add a subprime mortgage mess and collateralized debt obligations up the Limpopo without a paddle.
Syl Plath said she had a call into Jack’s doc to get the meds back on track. I heard Tanenhaus and Keller were locked in their offices because they were afraid Leonard might stop by, but Pinch’s secretary was sanguine about the chances of getting Leonard to chill. “We’ve got Wellbutrin here in the employee cafeteria, so we’ll get it in him if even if we have to shove it up his Limpopo,” were her exact words.
I tell all my topside friends: “Just do the drugs.” Now you know why.
The week-long retreat we just had in Jersey City was almost a bust — saved at the last moment by you-know-who, the myself who must not be named.
Pinch’s topic was “Making news where there is none.” The theory: if nothing is happening in the world to further our political agenda, we just make it up. Pinch and Keller called it “imaginative non-fiction” and called on all of us to do our share. “We live in a dog-eat-dog world,” Keller told the two dozen journalists handpicked to attend the event, “so now is not the time to go vegan. So. What dog do we eat?”
Silence, of course. Pinch was looking all concerned-but-confused, the way he gets when his daddy has to explain the stock market to him.
Finally, I saved Bill’s butt by explaining how it’s done. “It’s what I call ‘The Real Moscow Rules’–you take a news story that isn’t playing right, then inject it with improved ‘reporting’ until you get what you need. Think of it as making an omelette, then adding more eggs.”
Before I got to the end of my sentence, David Herszenhorn is waving his hand like a drowing man. “Ooo! Ooo! Let’s use the kid who delivered the Dem radio address asking for more tax money to pay for lower-middle-income kids’ health care! I talked to his people. He’s free.”
The Democrats had been smart to use the perfectly-cast boy (he looks like Peter Billingsley in A Christmas Story, for chrissakes!). I mean, cute kid, car injury, who could do better? We all waited for a week–but it hadn’t really gone anywhere. “It just wasn’t delivering the pathos-payoff,” Herszenhorn told me later. “So I’m going, ‘How do we get the Elephants to trample the child?’ I’m like, ‘Easy! We wait until somebody on the right questions the kid’s credentials — and presto! All Repubs are child-abusers!”
Did it work? And how! We played it mock-serious in the paper — it was a “political memo” under a hed reading, “Capitol Feud: A 12-Year-Old Is the Fodder.” And then we ship it under the hed “Hurt Boy at Center of Political Firestorm,” which is how our drones at AOL and elsewhere run it. AOL loves firestorms. In fact, just to make sure their busy, discerning audience didn’t miss the message, AOL front-paged it this way:
It is true that the only “attacker” David could come up with was Michelle Malkin (the rest were a bunch of unnamed “conservative bloggers”) — but Malkin certainly does have a blog and she no doubt is a Republican, so there you go. As David noted, “Republican opponents quickly accused [Democrats] of exploiting the boy to score political points.” Shameful!
We are so on top of our game right now. Never been more proud to carry the Times‘s card. Even the stock’s back up above a double-sawbuck. If it hadn’t have been for that stupid teen-suicide wanker in Cleveland shooting up some no-name high school for nerds and stealing the lead (except at AOL, where they at least stayed on message–if only their users could read), we’d have scored a clear touchdown with this one. As it is, we’ll take the field goal. Next week, we’ll spike the kid.
Word is, David’s now got the Pulitzer for imaginative non-fiction in his pocket. That’s where I keep mine, as a matter of fact!
Working on the weekend again, this time doing overtime on Tom Friedman’s latest masterpiece, the one where he coins a phrase that was greeted down here with what would have been a standing ovation, if anyone had any arms, hands or legs:
I’d love to see us salvage something decent in Iraq that might help tilt the Middle East onto a more progressive pathway. That was and is necessary to improve our security. But sometimes the necessary is impossible — and we just can’t keep chasing that rainbow this way.
Yes, “sometimes the necessary is impossible — and we just can’t keep chasing that rainbow this way.” Sadly, I can’t claim credit for that one. Tom did it all by himself, sitting at his special lit-from-below desk, which I always thought gave a nice Halloweenie effect:
Amazing to think that TimesSelect went under. Reading Friedman is free now, but most people I know would pay twice, even three times that if they could always be assured they would get something like “sometimes the necessary is impossible — and we just can’t keep chasing that rainbow this way” as part of the deal.
Or they could pay and get The Onion. Friedman is admittedly (and evidently) a frequent reader.