Morale v. power

Morale v. power
: Virginia Postrel gives us the inside perspective and true gen on the New York Times with a truth that has been known since I’ve been in this business:

In all the coverage of the NYT imbroglio … nobody to my knowledge has bluntly stated what most journalists know: The New York Times is a miserable place to work. That was true before [Howell] Raines, though he apparently made things worse, and it will be true now that he’s gone.

Times staffers are willing to put up with the paper’s ridiculous hours and extreme office politics for the same reason I put up with the paper’s demand for all rights to my articles: Because the benefits outweigh the costs. As long as the staff felt proud of their work, and of working for the Times, they put up with abusive management. But when the Times became a laughing stock, the tradeoff was no longer worth it, and a revolt was inevitable.

: Many years ago, I had one of the worst job interviews of my career at the Times. When I was there, a family friend saw me and asked with earnest passion, “Why would you want to work here? The politics are awful.”\

: I had a second job interview at the Times years later, with Max Frankel, who flattered me and contacted me about his idea of hiring a media critic at the Times. We never came to terms because I was about to start a magazine. And they never did get around to hiring a media critic. Too hot, that potato.

Now, the Times should hire a media critic. Now, more than ever.

  • Mike G

    Is there a newspaper that isn’t true of, however? I ask in all seriousness, but there seems something about the process of getting 500 people together to produce anything that seems likely to breed horrible politicking and infighting. And the people who rise to the top are likely to be the best at several of the worst things about it, no matter what their other talents.