“Pinch” Sulzberger: New York Times = Titanic

Arthur Sulzberger Jr. gives advice to aspiring journalism students.

Last Updated: October 28, 2009 @ 3:24 PM

This is a little unreal.

Jada Yuan, New York magazine’s intrepid party reporter, was covering a benefit on Tuesday for the New Literacy Project. New York Times publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr. was there.

Yuan asked Sulz what advice he had for aspiring young journalists? "Why don’t we not go there?" Sulzberger said. Then he proceeded to go there:

"Um, what I would tell them is the industry is in the midst of a massive transition. But the core of the fundamental job is critical. We have to re-create ourselves, but the heart of what we’re going to re-create is still journalism. The way people get information is changing, but the need for information will remain constant."

Yuan then asked the $64,000 — er, million – question. Will print survive?

"The best analogy I can think of is — have you ever heard of the Titanic Fallacy? What was the critical flaw to the Titanic? A captain trying to set a world speed record through an iceberg field? Even if the Titanic came in safely to New York Harbor, it was still doomed. Twelve years earlier, two brothers invented the airplane."

I think I get his point – there are new technologies changing the face of journalism, but the core remains the same, etc., etc. — but, come on man! Your paper just announced that it needs to cut 100 positions, or about 8 percent, from its newsroom by the end of the year – and that on top of the 5 percent pay cut you already instituted! This isn’t the time to be comparing your business to a ship that sank and killed 1,517 people! That’s the “best analogy” you can think of?!

A “no comment” would’ve worked well there.