— My old pal Joe Hagan has some excellent reporting for New York on the new regime at The New York Times Company, where he finds contrasting visions of the future at the top and blurred lines on responsibilities. Much of the tension comes from scandal-plagued CEO Mark Thompson’s encroachment on the newsroom.

…The role of “visionary” at the paper, traditionally held by the news chief, was now being ceded to Thompson. And in recent months, say several Times sources, Abramson has chafed at some of Thompson’s moves as he redirects company resources to projects of ambiguous design, including an aggressive video unit run by a former AOL/Huffington Post executive who sits among news editors but reports to the corporate side of the Times…
Thompson is from a press culture where the line between news and business has never been particularly sacred, and he saw himself as a new kind of fusion executive…
In place of the 30 reporters and editors who left last winter, the Times is hiring ­dozens of videographers to create new ­content for the paper’s website. And in February, it was Thompson who hired a general manager of video production, Rebecca Howard of AOL and the Huffington Post, to oversee the new video push. Though she was billed as part of a “video-journalism” effort, Howard is a business executive with an office in the editorial suites. When it was announced that the video unit would be reporting to the corporate side of the paper, “Jill was clearly shaken by it,” says a person who was in meetings with her…
Thompson meets regularly with reporters and editors, but he is still a mystery. “There wasn’t a grand plan,” says one reporter who heard him out. “Maybe there isn’t a grand plan. Sell tchotchkes, do this, do that. You could reasonably infer what he’s talking about is chipping away at that wall between business and news.”

You know what? I want to read the NYT. I don’t want to watch it. It’s fine to create new businesses, of course, particularly if they bring in new profits. But taking resources away from the core business is a really bad move.

There’s much more in the piece. Read the whole thing.

 

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.