New York Times employees are getting visibly restless as their CEO-less company struggles to chart its course through 2012, amid declining profits and rising costs. At least one newsroom employee thinks that acting chief executives Arthur Sulzberger Jr. seems lost in trying to figure out the paper's next steps and leaning on yet another management consultant. Science and health reporter Dan McNeil expressed his disdain about Sulzberger "going trekking with [Wharton professor Michael Ulseem] in the Himalayas soon" in an email sent to about 150 of his colleagues and leaked to Gawker on Tuesday. "A trek now in mid-crisis?" McNeil continued. "We put out a great newspaper every day. But outside the newsroom, at the corporate level, we're sailing on a ghost ship."
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McNeil's tone shouldn't come as a huge surprise. It was just over a month ago that half of the Times newsroom protested the lack of progress in the paper's negotiating a new contract with members of the Newspaper Guild, a deal that still hasn't been made. Meanwhile, former CEO Janet Robinson must be enjoying the $23 million package she took with her when she got pushed out of the company at the end of last year.
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The full text of McNeil's email:
On 29 Mar 2012, at 08:42, McNeil, Donald wrote:
The Times is in labor turmoil. Journalists are openly angry. Even the sacred Page One meeting has had a protest.
The company has no C.E.O.
Arthur has cancelled his annual State of the Times address.
He didn't even speak at Anthony Shadid's memorial. Jill "greeted us in his name" as he sat there.
And don't forget what Bloomberg observed on Jan. 27: "In the meantime, the 60-year-old chairman is serving as interim CEO amid internal concerns about his travels overseas, according to two people familiar with the matter. In the last 19 months, Sulzberger has attended at least a dozen conferences and panels in Istanbul, Beijing, Munich, London, Paris and Switzerland where his girlfriend, Claudia Gonzalez, works."
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.
No, really. … A Nepal trek is very Arthur, since he's a rock climber and Outward Bound tripper.
(He discusses that on YouTube here)
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.