—And then there’s the question I raised last May about how difficult it must be for a Western reporter in China. That has to be a special problem now for the Times or Bloomberg reporters, or others chasing stories like the ones they’ve broken. How do they communicate with their editors back home in any kind of secure way? How can they keep sources protected if, as might be expected, they’re being followed and their calls monitored?

2. Opera profits

My wife and I went online last week to buy two tickets to the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center as a Christmas present for two of her relatives. The price for two orchestra seats in Row U, off to the side: $470. It’s the opera, we thought - clearly a worthy charity.

But, it turns out, quite a flush charity, too. According to its latest publicly available tax return, the nonprofit, tax-exempt opera took in $362 million in ticket sales and contributions in the fiscal year ending July 31, 2011 but spent just $321 million. That’s a $41 million (11 percent) profit. To be sure, $194 million of the $362 million that came in was from contributions, and, of course, there’s nothing wrong with an important cultural institution building up its endowment for a rainy day. It’s also true that the Opera has lots of far less expensive seats from which the sound is great even if the view isn’t. But the combination of this profit margin, the high ticket prices and the high salaries reported in the IRS filing - the director made $1,379,000 - suggests someone ought to survey major non-profit cultural institutions in New York and other major cities and do a report on profits, expenses, prices, and accommodations made to those who can’t pay full price to go to the show.


Steven Brill , the author of Class Warfare: Inside the Fight To Fix America’s Schools, has written for magazines including New York, The New Yorker, Time, Harper's, and The New York Times Magazine. He founded and ran Court TV, The American Lawyer magazine, ten regional legal newspapers, and Brill's Content magazine. He also teaches journalism at Yale, where he founded the Yale Journalism Initiative.