A few weeks ago, New York Times science and health reporter Don McNeil sent out a scathing email to colleagues attacking Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. for piloting a “ghost ship” and running off to the Himalayas with a management guru while the paper founders.
The email, sent out to roughly 150 Times reporters and editors in the midst of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the paper’s management, lays out the case that Sulzberger—a scion who inherited his role as publisher from his father—is an easily distracted dilettante who’s more interested in trendy leadership “philosophies” than newspapering.
At a time when Times reporters are in open revolt over Guild contract talks and the paper lacks a CEO (the last one having been sent packing with a whopping $23 million retirement package), McNeil wrote, Sulzberger has cancelled his annual “State of the Times” talk and failed to offer any words at the memorial service for Times foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid, who died while covering the Syrian conflict.
Instead, McNeil wrote, Sulzberger is in thrall to a “management guru” and Wharton School of Business professor named Michael Useem: “So where is Arthur these days? At the small dinners he is having with staff, he offered an answer: He has found a new management guru, Michael Useem. And he is going trekking with Mr. Useem in the Himalayas soon…. A Nepal trek is very Arthur, since he’s a rock climber and Outward Bound tripper…. But to learn leadership? Shouldn’t a 60-year-old corporate chairman already know whether he’s a leader or not? Shouldn’t that have been decided by age 35 or so? And a trek now? In mid-crisis? We put out a great newspaper every day. But outside the newsroom, at the corporate level, we’re sailing on a ghost ship.” (Read the full email below.)
Hilarious. Sulzberger is searching for answers in the same place as Bill Murray’s character in Caddyshack:
Carl Spackler: So I jump ship in Hong Kong and I make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas.
Angie D’Annunzio: A looper?
Carl Spackler: A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I’m a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald… striking. So, I’m on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one – big hitter, the Lama – long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga… gunga, gunga-lagunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.
Don’t worry Times writers. “Gunga galunga” will save the paper.
The rest here.