This is why I love the New York Times.
Last week, as its stock dipped toward the price of a Sunday paper and the company slashed its dividend, it was reported that Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, 28, the son of the publisher, was returning to New York to go to work at the mother ship.
It was noteworthy news. What was especially revealing was where young Sulzberger was returning from.
One might think that, in these days when the newspaper industry is in a crisis, bleeding jobs and folding print editions, the Times would be grooming its future leaders by placing them with Google or Apple or Netflix—you know, some company that knows how to make money online.
Not the Times. Young Sulzberger will be leaving Portland, Ore., where he spent the last two or three years working at the Oregonian, a wonderful, quirky little newspaper known for its belief in the majesty of the lyrically written word.
It was important to the Sulzbergers not that Arthur be grounded in the manipulation of hedge funds or sales of consumer appliances but in journalism: in the hard, sacred work of bringing news to the world in honest and well-crafted dispatches, without fear or favor.
As rumors of the impending dividend cut circulated in recent weeks, there was speculation that the extended family of Sulzberger cousins, some of whom were said to base their family finances on those payments, would revolt.
It may yet happen. Wall Street is a cruel and nasty place these days, and the élan of dropping one's famous last name in Manhattan society may pale for the cousins when the monthly bills are due.
But in the meantime, God bless 'em. The dividend cut will cost them dearly, but they issued a statement reaffirming their commitment to the vision of their parents and grandparents, and the newspaper's holy mission. And today, on a far, far—far—lesser scale, I join their noble stand.
In my years of employment at the Boston Globe, you see, I accumulated a modest amount of Times company stock via an employee purchase program.
Now, it is true that I sometimes feel like an Enron worker, watching my shares tank and wondering if someday I'll be seeing the current Times management take a perp walk in mid-Manhattan.
But, mostly, I keep faith in the dream. That somehow, sometime, amid the millions of screamy opinions, nutty rumors, and mistruths that mar the Internet, a few stout-hearted journalistic entities, like the Times, will continue to invest in excellence, strive for truth, and so win an audience, and advertisers, and investors.
And if I'm wrong, you know, the money will be the least of my worries.