My friends who suffer my blather gladly have heard this for about a two years: some day, someone will buy the New York Times and run it as a 501c3. And now it looks like it could be sooner than later. Newsweek reports that media titan David Geffen, having been rebuffed by the Los Angeles Times is the man of the moment. I have a hard time believing he’s 66, but I digress. Anyway, from Newsweek:
“David would hope the newspaper makes a profit,” said the confidante. “But he believes that operating without the ultimate responsibility of paying dividends or necessarily having to be profitable is the best way to run an institution like The New York Times.”
Exactly. No more God/Mammon confusion; just a recognition that the NYT is a special institution best run in the public interest.
It cheers me to be believe that such an outcome is possible; my emotions about it being inevitable are more mixed. Geffen is reputed to be worth $4.5 billion; if the Sulzbergers would listen to their fellow shareholders (the least forgone conclusion in this whole discussion), Geffen could own the paper for closer to 10 than 20 percent of his net worth. And given that pulling off such a transaction–and then endowing the paper a la the suggestion of David Swensen–would be the categorical media deal of the century, we must assume that somebody will do it. It’s the ultimate media vanity play, and there are plenty of checkbooks who can pull it off and never miss the dough. And, done properly, it would be a bold stroke in the public interest.