N.Y. Times, Playing Role of the Pot, Calls the Wall Street Journal’s Kettle Black

I love the New York Times (and not just because I used to work there) but goodness gracious, this kind of thing really hurts its credibility.

An article about News Corp.’s decision to split off its publishing business (including the Wall Street Journal) from its entertainment business contains the following sentence:

Both companies would maintain their controversial dual-class share stock structure, which enables the Murdoch family to control nearly 40 percent of the voting power.

Well, guess what other family-run news organization maintains a dual-class share stock structure? Yes, the New York Times — as well as the Washington Post and others, as Rupert Murdoch pointed out in announcing News Corp.’s move. This fact, however, isn’t mentioned in the Times article. But here’s the reality: given the turmoil in the newspaper business in general and at the Times in particular, it’d be easy to argue that if anyone’s dual-class ownership is “controversial,” it is the Times‘s more than the Journal‘s.

The Times article also omits that the new publishing unit will include News Corp.’s education unit and HarperCollins, one of the world’s largest book publishers. (Our books are published by William Morrow, a division of HC.) The Journal‘s coverage of the story is superior.

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  1. Martin says:

    Is the share structure not controversial? Why is it relevant what the Times share structure is? Must they list other companies with a similar structure?

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    • RJ Roy says:

      I believe that the point is that the Times called the system controversial, regardless of whether it is or isn’t, and thus made the insinuation that News Corp’s is bad, without revealing that they themselves use the same system.

      IE, the Times is trying to paint the split as a bad thing, without revealing that they have the same setup themselves.

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      • Martin says:

        Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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      • Martin says:

        Here’s an article in the Times discussing why such a share structure is controversial.

        Some say it allows the managers to focus more on long term goals instead of short-term stock prices. Others say it encourages managers to pay themselves too much and make unwise acquisitions. So yeah, it is controversial.
        http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/04/13/new-share-class-gives-google-founders-tighter-control/

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  2. DanSanto says:

    With all respect to Dubner and his history with the NYT, the WSJ has always had better coverage of anything even vaguely related to finance or economic. They have a history of focusing on the topic, so I’m not surprised they would do this story better too.

    I wouldn’t chalk it up to any particular sort of deceptive institutional sniping by the NYT at the WSJ, though. I suspect the NYT reporter was just ignorant of the NYT’s own share structure – when casting the stone at the WSJ, he probably honestly didn’t realize his own house was made of glass.

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    • Rob says:

      Even if he does know about the share structure of his own newspaper, he probably would still think it is controversial. Heck, most journalists at the NY Times probably believe they should be the ones running paper in the first place.

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  3. frankenduf says:

    yeah the times’ credibility is suspect- but then again, not nearly as much as murdoch’s- anyone who would allow him consolidated media power is either not aware of current events or corrupt

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  4. Bart says:

    So this is news? I mean, this is news! Someone at the Times forgot to mention all the facts! Like that’s never happened before?

    I could care less if they go broke or shrink or whatever – I need objective news with all the facts from all the sides – it ain’t happening, so the fewer news outlets around the fewer lies that will be told – even by omission.

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    • Martin says:

      If you want all the facts, the Times gives you the fact that the Murdoch family has 40% of the voting power. The WSJ doesn’t tell you that.

      So yeah, if facts are what you’re after, which one does a better job?

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  5. Martin says:

    I don’t see how calling something ”controversial” is in any way a criticism. It’s a simple statement of fact.

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    • James says:

      Is it? Who exactly are engaging in this supposed controversy? Seems like yet another media-manufactured “controversy” over something in which most people have no opinion nor interest.

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      • Martin says:

        “These types of dual-class share structures are often found in media and technology companies. (The New York Times Company has a dual share structure.) The reason, companies say, is that it allows them to focus on the long term, which can’t necessarily be achieved with the short-term sway of shareholders who are more worried about quarterly profits.”

        “Academic studies have also found that dual-class companies tend to pay their chief executives more and make more value-destroying acquisitions because of this freedom.”

        “These types of structures were used in the 1980s to fight off hostile takeovers. Management would adopt high vote share classes and keep this stock to ensure that the company was not forced into a sale. The Securities and Exchange Commission tried to ban these maneuvers, but a rule was struck down by the courts.”
        http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/04/13/new-share-class-gives-google-founders-tighter-control/

        It looks to me like there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding this type of corporate structure!

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  6. Travis says:

    Wait, how is the Journal’s coverage superior? It doesn’t mention that the Murdoch family will control 40% of the voting power… I mean, it doesn’t say anything about how it will be structured.

    I’m not sure why the Time’s stock structure is even an issue when the story is about NewsCorp? This news isn’t intended to generate interest in Times’ stock prices… so why does it even matter? Doesn’t the fact that the times story actually talks about the stock structure count for anything? I mean, it’s a pretty significant detail which is omitted from the WSJ story on the same subject…

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    • Martin says:

      Apparently it’s unfair to mention anything that someone may possibly construe as negative. It’s better just to leave it out to avoid offending people.

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  7. Caleb B says:

    Somewhat off topic: I don’t like seeing all the Obama ads in the banners of the Times and the Washington post. I get that they are just selling ad space, but it makes them seem more biased.

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    • Martin says:

      So an organization that supplies news should not accept any ads from political figures? What is Fox news going to do?

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