This is hell: I work all last week writing crap for Arianna under all those stupid “assumed” names–then turn around and find out Pinch has accidentally cut our rate for a full-page ad from $167,000 to $65,000 so he can tell his old man that total ad pages are finally up.
And how do I wake up this morning? Pinch calling at the ungodly hour of 0930!
“Walt…Mr. Duranty, sir…” I hate it when he gets all subby-slutty like that. You know Janet has just left the office and he’s still wearing his little rubber hood. “I wonder if you can get some people up to Grandpa’s summer place on C1?”
It’s Adolph Ochs place on the first circle–“Centre Square,” as he calls it. Cute little spot he shares with Charles Nelson Reilly and Paul Lynde. Kind of a mini-Hamptons just under the upper crust.
“What’s the problem?”
“It’s his ceiling. He says our stock price is breaking through and making a mess of the playroom.” I look it up on Reuters:
“Whoa. Nineteen bucks and a dime?! That’s a record!” I can’t believe it. “What in hades is going on?”
I can hear him sniffling. “I…I guess the market didn’t think it was smart to cut our page rate by two-thirds.”
No kidding. Pinch. He’s so…so pathetically this:
“Arthur, I told you not to cut Guiliani the same deal you cut George and the MoveOn people.”
“But it worked, Mr. Duranty…Walter. Walt. I mean it gave us cover. Everybody picked up on it. Even third-stringers, like that Raw Story guy, David Edwards, and his houseboy…what’s his name?”
“Jason, Pinch. His name is Jason. Like Jayson, but not as trashy. Besides, you know his name. You just hate saying it.”
“Yeah, well…even those guys are giving us cover. So now everybody believes we didn’t give MoveOn a deal. They just believe the real page rate is the MoveOn rate.” He didn’t sound smug, though.
“Maybe it worked too well? Not smart, Arthur.”
“I know! I know! You’re right! We should have just…” He paused.
“Just what? Just run an editorial? Just come right out and say ‘Petraeus is a traitor’? Instead of making MoveOn do our dirty work? Maybe that half-assed passive-aggressive thing of yours wasn’t so clever, was it?” I was peeved. Couldn’t help it.
“Well…okay, whatever. But now I’ve got everybody lining up for the MoveOn rate! Everybody wants a page for 65 grand. United and Southwest both just put their ads on ‘standby’! The stock’s through the floor! What do I do?”
“Uncle Walt will deal.” I hang up, pull on a flip-flop and go up to C1 and take a look. The place is a mess. Adolph’s not there, but the place still reeks of stem cells from the last party. So I spend half the day shoring up the ceiling. Finally, around noon, I call the kid. “Okay, Arthur. Now you have to ease the pressure back a little.”
“How…how do I do that?”
“We need to raise the share price a little. So kill the TimesSelect crap.”
This stuns him. “Oh…no way! I mean–it’s our Omega plan! We just need to give it time. Really. People will pay money to read Bob Herbert–I just know they will!”
“No, Arthur. They won’t. Not even if you cross-dress Bob Herbert in Maureen Dowd’s Lane Bryant tents. Nothing you do will make people pay to see the same old dreck those so-called ‘columnists’ have been churning out for a decade. So just cut it lose, Arthur. And take notes this time, because here’s your story: You’ve got more ads than ever. So what if they’re practically free. You got a lot of ’em–plus, now you can say you’re increasing traffic. Play it like a great brainstorm. You’ve been telling everybody you’re making $10 mill on TimesSelect–so now just say…uh, say you hate money. Yeah! Here’s the headline: ‘Times spurns $10 million just because.’ Believe me, our people will believe anything. We’ve still got the sucker market cornered. TimesSelect sucks. Just get rid of the stupid thing. I need you to raise that stock price about 50 cents, and fast, or your grandpa’s little love-nest is going straight to Ed Gein.”
So he does and we end the day down a mere 15 cents–thanks to me. One leg, in hell–but still my paper’s hero!