How dare Vanity Fair print such a cruel and heartless article about Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., the publisher and chairman of The New York Times? How can a man possibly summon the energy and enthusiasm to get out of bed, get dressed and face the problems the Times is facing with a nasty journalist like Mark Bowden gleefully and gratuitously tearing chunks off him?
Note how Sulzberger is characterized in attributed and unattributed descriptions in Bowden’s article called “The Inheritance” in the May issue of Vanity Fair:
His buck teeth give the impression of puerility. He listens impatiently and impulsively interrupts. He makes stabs at humor. He is long winded, affected, fussily articulate, eager to impress, insubstantial and slightly glib. He exaggerates. He has hit-and-miss witticism. He’s arrogant, not especially intellectual and a Star Trek Fan. His mind wanders. He’s a prince-in-waiting. He has the personality of a 24-year old geek. He’s provincial, sarcastic, uses poor judgment and lacks conviction. He’s condemned to stand apart from others. His career has progressed in prodigious and unearned ways. He’s timid. His efforts are half-hearted. He’s a light-weight. He’s out of his depth, fails to impress and elicits pity. He doesn’t always wear shoes in the office. He promotes people based on how “fun” they are. As a reporter, he was competent if unspectacular. He hides behind barbs. No weight seems to adhere to him. He has no radiance (power). He’s not deeply respected. He’s a lightweight cheerleader. He has a high-pitched and zany laugh. He’s overmatched. He looks dismayingly small. He’s shrinking. He’s childish. He’s goofy. He’s steered his inheritance into the ditch. He’s squandered billions. He’s the wrong person at the helm. He’s an unappealing and stereotypical figure. He’s weak and pampered. He’s a diluted strain of the hardy founding stock. He’s a man who sees himself as both journalist and business manager, but who, in fact, is fully neither.
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Backstabs AND frontstabs.
And Mark Bowden presumes to call the target of his castigating article, “Arthur.” I’ll bet that’s “Mr. Sulzberger” to you from now on, Mark Bowden.
Bowden’s article is long-winded and full of poorly weighted contradictions. (Whoever edited his article at Vanity Fair: You’re FIRED!) On the one hand, he portrays Sulzberger as a failure-in-waiting for making bad decisions, even though, according to Bowden, everyone felt those decisions seemed smart at the time. On the other hand Bowden reluctantly agrees that poor, dumb bastard Sulzberger had the foresight to create what is now “the best newspaper Web site in the country.”
Look, I am assuming that it is just a matter of time until we all become weaned from our coffee-and-newspaper-to-go mornings and check in with increasing frequency to The New York Times online. Bowden, who is 58-years-old, must be stuck in his own personal time warp and typing away on his old Smith Corona if he doesn’t “get” this. As Peter Osnos, former Washington Post reporter said to Bowden, “Arthur has . . . re-invented the newspaper on several levels and positioned it for the future.”
Say What? It’s a Myth that Good Journalism Sells?
Bowden also accuses Arthur Sulzberger Jr. of buying into the “myth” that great journalism sells. Myth? If the Chairman of The New York Times is wrong about a newspaper’s quality of journalism being of value to attract readers, then Mark Bowden, former Philadelphia Inquirer staff reporter for over 20 years, should not have been taking a paycheck. If Mark Bowden doesn’t think a newspaper’s reputation has value, he should stop boasting in his online bio about his book, Black Hawk Down, being on The New York Times Best-Seller list for over a year.
At Last, A Little Credit for “Young Arthur”
Bowden agrees there are “crushing forces at work in the newspaper industry that are certainly not Sulzberger’s fault and that are affecting every other decent paper.” Bowden also says that Sulzberger had “presided over a decade of unprecedented prosperity.” Bowden even uses the word “visionary” with regard to Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.
So why humiliate Arthur? (I don’t think he’d mind ME calling him Arthur! I’ve got his back; I’m not driving him to the window ledge.)
Although Bowden disparagingly describes Arthur as having a strongly held belief that excellence in journalism will prevail and that the money will follow, Bowden also states that Sulzberger is “the best defender of quality journalism” and a man “whose convictions regarding journalism are beyond reproach,” and a man who is “clearly smart,” and “eager to defend reporters’ freedoms . . . ”
Hey, Arthur Sulzberger sounds like a guy for whom Mark Bowden, aging journalist, might like to work.
Good luck with that now, Mark!
Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Am I one of just a few Times’ readers who would miss the print edition terribly? One of my favorite quotations seems apt here: “You’ll remember not the words of your enemies, but the silence of your friends.” — Martin Luther King