Thursday, 18 September 2008

Just a word or two about that IHT Gawker story

Who knows if what Gawker had to say about Serge being pushed out is true or not, and who cares?

a) seems strange that Keller would have it in for the godfather of his son
b) there was no make or break meeting in November for Serge to be seen at after with Golden; a meeting about the IHT, yes, with Serge and Keller present, amongst others, yes, but it was no make or break meeting.
c) The curious thing about this is that there is no mention of the "wikipedia incident". Schmemann was VERY upset that someone had changed his entry to say that he had been fired etc. so, naturally, he went to Golden with it. A big drama newsroom meeting was set up with Schmemann present, and Golden presiding to officially condemn the wiki incident and presumably to try and shame the perpetrator (who remains unknown and was hardly likely to own up, even if they were there - there is nothing to suggest to anyone it was a newsroom staffer who spent his or her downtime fiddling with Wiki). It could have been someone outside the IHT as far as I can see. Golden however threatened to bring in the police which seems a bit OTT. Many doubted he would or did and it struck many as being an over the top reaction to a practical joke. However reliable sources tell me Schmemann was convinced Brian Manning was behind it and told the authorities so. Most people doubt it because it doesn't sound like Manning, who, although he does have a sense of humour, is not exactly known for his technological skills and someone scoffed at the idea he would even know how to edit a wiki entry. So...
d) One has to wonder if the someone who edited the wiki entry is in fact Gawker's email tipster with some sort of grudge against Schmemann.
e) This wiki thing is pretty old news, so why is this person with a grudge against Schmemann suddenly contacting me and perhaps the self same person, Gawker?

What's more puzzling - and more illustrative of just how wrong sites like Gawker and indeed my own 'from the mountains' outsiders blog can be - is this line from Gawker, under the title of Bill Keller purging the IHT:

"Given the extent to which the Times appears to be gutting the IHT, one wonders why the company bothers to keep it as a separate brand rather than simply identifying it as the European edition of the Times."
We know (if Gawker and their tipster don't) why they keep it a seperate brand.
Research has shown that the IHT brand flies better outside the U.S.A. than the NYT, within their target demographic.
(But don't rule out the NYT not going the INYT route; I'd say it's still a possibility.)
And the NYT don't identify it as the European edition of the Times (btw - the IHT has an Asian edition too), nor have they kept it a seperate brand. Rather they have clearly called it the global edition of the NYT.
(The paper does, even if NYT Corporate don't.)
By 'gutting' I suppose Gawker means being folded into in March 09 and their unsubstantiated rumour that Op-Ed is going the same way (I've addressed that seperately.)

But as to personnel, yes, there is the matter of some producers being fired (to take affect by March 09 - sorry, just can't bring myself to use the term 'let go'; some have already found jobs elsewhere, let's hope they all do) but at a senior level Oreskes was hardly an IHT fixture to be gutted - he was put in there by the NYT after their takeover, and he came from the NYT.

Equally, Golden was appointed publisher. He was hardly an IHT fixture either. He left but he's hardly been let go. Thanks to some rather nifty family relations (and his own skills set) he is, after all, still on the board and Vice Chairman of the actual NYT Company. If that's gutting, have my innards any time you like.

Even if Schmemann is on the way out (and I really don't know that he is, beyond one IHT tipster to Gawker and this blog) he too was hardly an IHT fixture to be gutted. He too came in from the NYT after the NYT took over.

In fact, if we look at the masthead we have the publisher (SDJ) plus Allen, Berlin, Berry, Knorr and Shannon still happily there and they were IHT, non-NYT appointed people, all in place BEFORE the NYT took 100% control of the paper.

One would have to conclude that the NYT is satisfied with their performance.

(Stout, it is true, def. was shown the door, but 30 years or so is a long, long time on the same paper.)

Not only were these IHT fixtures there before the NYT took over, but many of them didn't even come from the NYT in the first place.

SDJ for example came from the FT, Shannon from the WP; Allen, Knorr, Berry and Berlin have been there since the beginning of time.

(Kath, m'old luv, you still won't review my book - I don't hold it against you. Did you see the JIrons thing - well, he's a big IHT fan and he loved the book so it should be right up the IHT readers' alley, non?!)

And, for good measure, we have Weddle still as MD Asia, and a more IHT fixture you couldn't get, bar Big John V.

As for journalists Menkes and Melikien - still there.

Roger Collis - regretably, still there.

John Vinocur - the uber IHT fixture - still there.

So all this talk of the NYT gutting the IHT is rot.

Are any of them obstacles to the NYT's plans for the IHT?

Well, no doubt William S. will form his own views when he formally takes up his new position as Editor, Global Edition(S), but the people I've worked with personally like Berlin, Shannon, SDJ and Weddle have hardly got a reputation for being obstacles to progress, indeed the inverse.

And the IHT is throwing a lavish party for Menkes Saturday week; Souren remains the world art market journalist of reference and he still works for the IHT.

Furthermore, the NYT have in fact added journalists, also not necessarily from the NYT. Kanter is a good example (ex-Dow Jones).

The IHT has never had more staff writers than I can remember.

In fact if any gutting needs to be done, here are two ideas:

a) replace NYT art editor with Souren (he wouldn't want the job, but it would be nice gesture to offer it);

b) ditto their fashion editor with Suzy. (idem)

That would do the NYT a world of good.

There is a core of copy editors and hanger-ons at the IHT who are rabidly anti-NYT/change who do need 'gutting' (to use that lovely corporate language about people's lives and careers and family incomes) but that's basically because they have been asked to work harder, and not treat the IHT as an endless free-holiday in Paris. (It's true, there have been about a dozen losses in the newsroom but at least two were retirements. These buy-outs began in 07 and are only taking place this year.)

If you work at the IHT and can't get your head around the advantages of being part of the NYTMG and go with it, you're working for the wrong newspaper and instead of criticising from within you should put your money where your mouth is and resign. The blogosphere awaits you.

Ironically, part (and if I am honest a small part) of why I resigned from the IHT was because it WASN'T wholly owned by either one of its then two owners and it clearly wasn't going to go anywhere until it was. And anyone with a brain at the IHT knew that.

The fact that the painful, time wasting, energy sapping two years for IHT execs and editors educating the NYT about what they owned could have been all avoided if Mr. Sulzberger had rung me up to fix a meet over a half-hour coffee is another matter.

(Very occassionally, I still have Excel nightmares, but luckily I got out in time.)

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