The dividend increase was the clear signal that the company’s management and owners just did not get it. But wait, there’s more:
The biggest recent expense is the company’s new Midtown Manhattan headquarters, completed in 2007. The Times spent $600 million on the building, although the true net cost of the project is perhaps half that, taking into account the money the company made on the sale of its old building, income from leasing part of the new building and other factors.
The Times lost even more money here, though, by bad market timing. It sold its landmark headquarters in Times Square for just $175 million in 2004. Three years later, it sold again for exactly three times that price—$525 million.
And the report also says that even if the company won’t run out of cash in the next few months, the environment over the next couple of years will be tough and after that is a great unknown.
Looking ahead, revenue is expected to keep falling this year, and the company will have to keep cutting costs. Most analysts think it will have positive cash flow in 2009, but not by much.
Beyond that, the company’s future rests on questions no one can answer. When will the recession end? When it does, will the decline of print advertising slow to a modest pace? Will Internet ads make a big comeback?
This isn’t a bad effort, and it’s not great, either. Give the Times a ‘C.’
But does this mean that the Times shouldn’t even take on its own story at all? The Deal’s editor Robert Teitelman thinks not.
But the bigger question is not whether the story was decent or not, but why would the Times bother? After all, it’s not likely that anyone in edit is going to take the kind of whack at the paper and its news-gathering army like Michael Hirschorn did in The Atlantic in January. And the story tempts the charge that it was a defense against the Hirschorn argument that the Times needed to cut a big chunk of the newsroom to survive. The truth is, the Times is conflicted on the story and probably should have either loudly admitted to its conflict or, better yet, shut up on the subject.
So would we have been better off without this story? I don’t think so. What kind of disclaimer does Teitelman think the Times needs on its story? The big flag on top of the paper saying “The New York Times” is somehow not enough? Give readers some credit.