It’s been quite an awful week for old media. In the last few days, three once-proud and once-powerful print news organizations were sold at bargain basement prices. Newsweek was sold to a digital news company. The Boston Globe to John Henry, the owner of the Boston Red Sox. And the Washington Post went to Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.
We have to wonder: Can The New York Times be far behind?
Of course, the Times is not for sale and has weathered the current journalism tsunami better than most media companies, but still we thought it would wise to plan for any eventuality. A few years ago, no one could have predicted the sale of the Globe, the Post and Newsweek.
Who would buy the Times and what would it look like with a new owner? We would, of course, want to keep it in The Tribe (it’s been owned by a Jewish family since 1896), so our list is limited. But here are some possible buyers, their motives and their makeover:
♦ Eliot Spitzer. This is certainly wishful thinkting, but perhaps Spitzer will lose the primary for New York City comptroller in September. He’ll have time on his hands, millions in the bank and considerable media experience from his time on-air on CNN and Current TV. Spitzer also has a long memory for betrayals. It was, after all, The Times that first exposed that he was Client No. 9 of a high-class prostitution ring.
First Page One Headline: “There Were Prostitutes in the Bible Too.”
♦ Mike Bloomberg. He’s out of a job come the New Year, he’s got even more in the bank than Spitzer and, with Bloomberg L.P., he’s already a media mogul. The Times would be another gem in his empire and a way for him to continue to promote issues dear to his heart, like bike lanes, a smoking ban, gun control and an end to big sugary sodas.
First Page One Headline: “Revise the City Charter for a Fourth Term”
♦ Sheldon Adelson. All those millions that he invested last year in Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and other Republican candidates came to naught. None of the horses he backed were elected. But unable to put his stamp on the country, Adelson has had more luck with journalism. His right-wing newspaper, Hayom, which is distributed free in Israel, has effectively ruined the journalistic competition. It’s tough to compete with free newspapers. The Times could be his next victim.
First Page One Headline: “Long Live King Bibi.”
♦ Ryan Braun. The Milwaukee Brewers slugger has some time on his hands; he was suspended last month for the remainder of the season for violating major league’s anti-doping code. He’s also got millions, having signed a contract with the Brewers through 2020 that totals $145 million. Some might note that he is only half-Jewish but then so is the current Times publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.
First Page One Headline: “There Were Drugs in the Bible Too”
♦ Abe Foxman of the ADL. He could be the Jew most quoted in the Times. His letters to the editor could be published in a separate volume. In just the past few months, he’s had things to say about Trayvon Martin, Samantha Power, Oday Aboushi, Seth MacFarlane, John Galliano, Chuck Hagel and Women of the Wall. He’s got the breadth of knowledge of popular culture that would make him a great Times publisher. And he’s not a bad fundraiser, either. He might just be able to come up with the money to buy the Times.
First Page One Headline: “We Love Everyone, Except the Ground Zero Mosque”
♦ Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel. Yes, he’s haredi, but haredim are the future of New York Jewry. A UJA-Federation survey last year noted “explosive” growth among the Orthodox, with 40 percent of New York’s Jews now Orthodox. Some 74 percent of all Jewish children in the city are Orthodox. Rabbi Shafran speaks for many of these folks. And his number of published letters to the Times rivals Foxman’s. Here’s one that shows his grasp of history and openness to a Palestinian state. “How heartening that Mahmoud Abbas declares that the State of Palestine that he hopes for will be a ‘peace loving nation.’…. remind(s) me of another declaration of hope for ‘peace for our time’ — Neville Chamberlin in 1938.”
First Page One Headline: “Never On Shabbos”
The bottom line is that there are many Jews who would be interested — and able — to buy and run the Times if it should hang a “for sale” sign outside its Times Square headquarters. But the movement we sense building might be called ABAW: Anybody but Anthony Weiner.