And when I say there is none, I do mean that there is a certain amount, to paraphrase Monty Python. Stanley Kurtz writes:
Howell Raines is not the real issue, and getting rid of Raines won’t solve anything. The problem is Arthur Sulzberger Jr., and he’s not going away. In his wonderful book, How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace), Harry Stein lays out the disturbing facts about “Pinch” Sulzberger. (Sulzberger’s father was nicknamed “Punch,” and the none too flattering nickname for Junior is “Pinch.”)
Pinch was a political activist in the Sixties, and was twice arrested in anti-Vietnam protests. One day, the elder Sulzberger asked his son what Pinch calls, “the dumbest question I’ve ever heard in my life.” If an American soldier runs into a North Vietnamese soldier, which would you like to see get shot? Young Arthur answered, “I would want to see the American get shot. It’s the other guy’s country.” Some Sixties activists have since thought better of their early enthusiasms. Pinch hasn’t. [Emphasis mine; story also reported by the New Yorker–Ed]
Sulzberger once remarked that if older white males were alienated by the changes he was making to the Times, that would only prove “we’re doing something right.” Clearly, by Pinch’s standards, the Times has lately been doing very well indeed. Around the time Sulzberger Jr. took over the reins of the Times, then Executive Editor Max Frankel admitted (with no apparent shame) that he had put a halt to the hiring of non-blacks and “set up an unofficial little quota system.” So it’s wrong to put the Blair affair entirely onto Howell Raines’s well-known white guilt. Sulzberger has been imposing these policies on the Times since well before the accession of Raines.
It would be easy to dismiss Pinch Sulzberger as an ideologue and a lightweight, who just happens to have inherited the world’s most powerful paper. The nickname invites ridicule. So does the stuffed moose that Pinch and others at the Times haul out whenever they want to talk about sensitive topics. An ideologue Pinch may be, but a lightweight he is not. On the contrary, Sulzberger has steered his paper to ever greater heights of business success. Sulzberger’s accomplishments need to be taken seriously.
Last fall though, the Times’ readership fell over five percent. And that during the DC sniper crisis, the run-up to the war in Iraq, (and of course before the Jayson Blair fiasco). It will be very, very interesting to read what the Times’ numbers are in a few months.