What would the New York Times do with an extra billion dollars? It’s a tantalizing question with a lot of possible answers, but the newspaper’s publisher A.G. Sulzberger is sure about one thing: He wouldn’t sell the Gray Lady to get those 10 digits.
“The New York Times is not for sale,” Sulzberger told Recode’s Kara Swisher* on the latest episode of Recode Decode. She had asked about whether the Times felt the need to take a large investment from someone like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who in 2013 bought the then-struggling Washington Post for $250 million.
“It’s an interesting question in the abstract,” Sulzberger said. “But when you actually look at the reality on the ground, Jeff Bezos has been very clear that he wants the Washington Post to make a profit ... We need a healthy Washington Post in this country, and so we are delighted to see it growing again. But the Washington Post is still a significantly smaller paper than the New York Times.”
Earlier in the interview, he had acknowledged the numerous challenges facing media companies with expensive newsrooms to support, including the rise of tech giants like Google and Facebook, which have hoovered up ad revenue. But Sulzberger disagreed with the notion that the only way to compete is to solicit a tech-style investment.
“I think what we need to do is we need to build a business that sustains journalism,” he said. “... We’re going to have to make that billion dollars ourselves.”
* Disclosure: Outside of her work as Recode’s editor at large, Swisher is a contracted opinion writer for the New York Times.
Below, we’ve shared a lightly edited full transcript of Kara’s conversation with A.G.
Kara Swisher: Well, we have a lot to talk about, Arthur. A.G.? What am I supposed to call you?
A.G. Sulzberger: I think A.G. is perfect. But what does it say about how this is about to go, that everyone who stopped me today said, “Good luck up there?”
Good luck? Okay, good. Okay, fantastic.
I heard Kara say ...
First of all, Jeff, congratulations for that award. When I saw it I thought it was the award for drinking more beer than Kavanaugh. But ... I mean, come on. Stop. And I was worried, too. And honestly, and your mother’s here. He brought out his mother before, to like I’m gonna be nice ‘cause his mother’s gonna rush the stage. But this picture worried me right here. Here’s me, looking like a real gay Johnny Cash. And here’s him, looking like he tells dad jokes 24/7. So, and he’s just a dad. Congratulations.
Everyone needs a straight man.
Yes, it’s true. And you’re really straight. So it’s true. It’s true. You look like 103. So, all right. So, by the way, I have a contract with him. Full disclosure, I don’t care.
I tried to go edgy with the charcoal suit.
It’s nice. You look good.
Fine. Whatever. So let’s start talking about stuff. So you have been in the job, how long?
January. So what grade would you give yourself? Let’s do a Donald Trump question.
Oh, I don’t know.
You’re supposed to say A. A+?
Is that how it works?
That’s the Donald-
I think journalists-
Are supposed to take their time and double-check their facts.
How do you think you’re doing so far?
We actually have two Times tables right here. Wanna just shout out an answer that’s nice, but not too nice?
Right. They’re gonna say 80. Come on, how do you think you’re doing? Tell us the beginning of doing this.
Well I think the report is looking great. I think the report is looking as strong as it’s ever looked, under Dean Baquet and Joe Kahn and this team here. I think that we’re ... A lot of people wanna talk about just the political climate right now, but at the Times, we’re determined to cover the stories of this era. Which is climate change; it’s technology and how it’s disrupting every facet of how life is lived; and it’s the rest of the world. And I’m really proud of the reporting that we’re doing. Even as we’re publishing a 14,000-word investigation of the president’s finances, we’re also on the front lines in Yemen, trying to demand that our readers pay attention to the rest of the world, too. So, I mean if we’re just looking from the report standpoint, I’m extremely happy after this year.
Right. But I mean the fact of the matter is it’s Trump, Trump and also Trump, right? Correct? And that’s been sort of the center of what you’ve all been covering, but you’ve been set up as the opposite of. And like even today’s news this week, with the pipe bombs, and everything being sent and the danger, you all are at the center of something much bigger than just hey, we’re gonna do just nice reporting. Or do you not see it that way?
Well, I don’t think we ever see our job as “hey, we’re just gonna do nice reporting.”
Right. Right. Things have changed. You don’t feel like things have changed in the past 12 months?
In the past 12 months specifically? Look, I think we live in consequential times, and I think it’s impossible to miss that. I mean we’ve seen the list of just what’s come up on this stage. Trade wars, the rise of populism, not just domestically, but all around the world, seemingly simultaneously. From Poland and Hungary to Brazil and through our own country. And we’re seeing the increasing signs of climate change. We saw the UN report a couple weeks ago. So I don’t think the story is just Trump. In fact, I think in some ways Trump emerges out of the convergence of other stories around globalization and migration, and this global populism and income inequality. And I think all responsibility at the New York Times is to be covering the world broadly, because I think we start to make a mistake as a society when we start to just disentangle these threads and say that these things aren’t connected.
Now as far as Trump, we’ve invested deeply in our Washington Bureau. I think you’ve seen that we are committed to covering the administration, and all the institutions of power in Washington, as aggressively as anyone.
But he’s also made The New York Times, made CNN, made other publications a character in this insane reality show that’s going on.
What is that like, in terms of pressure on you? And you got sucked into it by speaking to him, apparently. You went over to this meeting. Explain this meeting. You went ...
Yeah. So ...
I wouldn’t have gone out without a body cam going there, but go ahead.
I had something better than a body cam. I had James Bennett, our Opinion Editor.
And former White House Correspondent. So, the President reached out through the Press Secretary and asked for a meeting. I didn’t know what it was about. I assumed he wanted to grumble. You may have noticed we’ve been doing some aggressive coverage of the administration. And I believe very strongly that it is the right of anyone who is in the news regularly to raise concerns about that coverage. And Dean Baquet, our editor, has an iron-clad rule, which I’ve always appreciated, that he won’t meet the President off the record. He feels like Presidents of the United States, when they’re meeting with the editor...
So, but I do believe that you should be able to raise concerns, so I decided to go. Studied up on all the various stories and investigative threads we were pursuing that he might grumble about. My read of it was, I think, he wanted to introduce himself and saw it largely as something of a social visit. Now, I don’t know if he had some agenda behind that. You know, I’m young, I’m new to the job. Maybe he thought he could charm my socks off and I’d call off the hounds. But for me, I felt it was an opportunity to raise my concerns, sitting across the table, looking him in the eye, about his rhetoric. Which I told him directly, and has subsequently been-
Yeah, that worked.
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Well it’s fair you say that-
It did not, did you see today...?
I know. No, I know.
Not yours in particular, but ...
Well, so I raised concerns, saying that his rhetoric was not just divisive, which I think people had focused on, but it was getting really dangerous. And not just domestically, which again we too often focus on. But it was really making the conditions for reporters abroad, particularly in countries with limited press freedoms, much harder. Because the world’s foremost staunchest defender of the free press and the free speech has always been this country, and people could smell that we were no longer fighting that fight. So I raised those concerns. I was not naïve enough to think that he would look me in the eye and say oh thanks, I’ve had my eyes opened by this. But he made a show of listening politely and engaging with the conversation, asking questions. And then the next week proceeded to ratchet up his rhetoric, back to level 15 where it’d been. You know, “the enemy of the people.”
And drag you into it.
But then did, I think, everyone who cares about journalists and journalism, a favor by allowing me to put on the record that he was warned about this. He was warned that these words would potentially, maybe even perhaps inevitably, have consequences. And I think you can argue about whether or not it was naïve of me to go there, or whether you think that people in my role should be meeting with the President. We can have that argument. You’ve heard my view. But I do think it’s really important that someone took that opportunity to raise this concern directly, because I don’t want him to be able to say-
So where are we now on that? Because the day after everybody gets a pipe bomb, he says something right, he reads it off the prompter, whatever they handed and made him say. And the next day, it was the same thing. Where we are in terms of danger? ‘Cause you see what happened in Saudi Arabia and those signals are everywhere.
Yeah. I mean Saudi Arabia, and what happened to our colleagues at Reuters in Myanmar. That a reporter was raped and murdered in Bulgaria. Annapolis is in all of our minds. This is a scary time. And this is before I even talk about the amount of heat and vitriol that people experience, and I imagine you’ve experienced just in the digital space.
Well, I dish it out. But go ahead. No.
So where is it? This is a really troubling time for all of us who believe in the role of a free press in supporting a free society.
Are you scared for The New York Times? Are you scared when ... I mean, aren’t you just are assuming it’s ...
Look, my job is to worry on behalf of my colleagues, and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t trying to anticipate what risks I need to be thinking about. But The New York Times tries never to operate from a place of fear. We’ve been operating around the world, on the ground, in dangerous environments for a long time. Including full-time bureaus in Iraq and Afghanistan since the beginning of the wars there. And we know how to report when government minders are tracking us. We know how to report when our communications are being bugged. We know how to report when we’re under threat. And I don’t think we’re there, but that’s why I also don’t feel particularly spooked at this point. What I’m more spooked about is the erosion of trust, and the polarization of trust in media. I think that that is an extremely worrying thing.
That’s something you’ve talked about, not wanting to be “the resistance.” Not wanting to be the opposition.
The Times has gotten more opinionated, not just in opinions but throughout. You have reporters on Twitter. You’ve got all kinds of things going on. There’s much more throughout, especially digital media, much more attitude.
Voice in it. You have talked about that not being the case. And something I worry about is that if you don’t have some sort of informed opinion that’s from reporting, you end up typing words on a page.
Not typing anymore, but you know what I mean. All it is, is just taking things down and being complicit in things that are something you shouldn’t be in.
Yeah. Let me take that in a few different ways. I mean one, I think, and this is something that you’ve been a leader on as well. Look, I think the old newspaper conventions don’t work anymore. I think the indirection ... We did a lot of things as journalists, and myself very much included, ‘cause I had a very traditional path through metro dailies. But we did a lot of things that actually disguised why a reader should come to us and believe us. And we thought it was because we’re not part of the story. We never want to make the story about us. But indirection like that old convention of saying, “Kara Swisher told a reporter today.”
Right? And you didn’t tell a reporter, you told me.
I’m right here. And that form is either confusing, or feels misleading, in the digital environment. And so I do think that we have systematically tried to strip some of those old, that’s sort of like the newspaperese, out of our work, which has allowed more voice to come in, and I think in a really good way. One of my colleagues, Neil Irwin, who’s a Knight-Bagehot fellow, is someone who ... And I really admire how he can write with authority and expertise that bleeds through everything. But doesn’t spin over to opinion.
Spin over to opinion, it’s really interesting thing. Because when I was at the Wall Street Journal, when I worked there. There was three words I hated: “To be sure, comma.” “According to some sources, blank.” And I remember writing about Webvan and they said, “Kara, we need you to say, ‘To be sure, some people feel Webvan is gonna work.’” And I said, “To be sure, those people are idiots.” Based on my reporting. It was so pleasing to get out of that.
I totally agree with you there. But I really do agree. I think false equivalency is the easiest, laziest form of protecting the appearance of independence. When in fact that’s not what independence looks like. What independence looks like is following the truth wherever it leads. And being comfortable with it leading someplace, that A, you didn’t anticipate and B, may not even want.
Sure, but coming to a conclusion, do you think that’s what’s gonna happen, ‘cause it happens digitally on the online publications are much — I mean at Recode we definitely say, guess what, Mark Zuckerberg ruined democracy, and here’s why. Let me explain to you. He moved fast, he broke things and democracy was one of them.
We do have an opinion section and thank you for joining it.
I know you agree with me on that, I’ll get to that in a minute. Go ahead.
But look, I also think it’s really important … So let me use one example that I think shows both sides of this. We just did a 14,000 word, 18-month investigation, three reporters full-time, two badass editors, a team project that painted the most comprehensive portrait of President Trump’s finances that have been painted to date. It wasn’t full of, “On one hand, on the other hand.” We used the word “fraud” in one of the top couple of grafs there and count the number of times a news organization with a good lawyer — and shout-out to David McCraw, who’s here as well. Oh yeah, David, I forgot you’ve become a star these days.
Point to me the number of news organizations with good lawyer who’s gonna let you use the word “fraud” if law enforcement has not yet already used it. So I think that’s an example of, it is okay to draw a conclusion. But I also think it’s really important to remember that there’s a difference ... the internet is overflowing with opinionated people and it’s overflowing with opinions, many of them great, many of them terrible. Pick your side on which are which. And people have been opinionating that President Trump’s finances were, there’s something shady there, for a long time. But what actually caused multiple investigations to be opened? It’s digging, it’s reporting. And that’s the part of the journalistic ecosystem that has been weakened the most over the last couple decades and that’s what I mean when I say-
What about the impact of those stories, because that was an astonishing display of journalism, astonishing, it was amazing. But whoosh! It went by. Right? That thing would have gone on for months before. Whoosh it went by and then something with Stormy Daniels, and then Michael Avenatti was around, and then I don’t know what happened, something else. It just goes one after the other.
It was Kavanaugh as well.
Kavanaugh, oh yeah. Forgot about him.
We forgot that.
That was two weeks ago right?
Look, the attention span thing is real and I don’t think we’ve fully grappled with how to deal with that, if you have suggestions I’m all ears. I also do think that that piece was read, it’s one of the longest pieces we’ve ever produced, was read by millions of people. And caused city, state, and federal officials all to say that they were looking into opening an investigation. I also don’t totally buy that it didn’t have an impact.
That it’s not yet done. So let’s talk a little bit about where you’re going in terms of your business. Let’s talk first about social media. I made a reference that Mark Zuckerberg ruined democracy. How do you look at social media now? Because they have sort of hollowed out media. They’ve hollowed out local media. They’ve put havoc all over the place. They allow fake news, the real fake news to go around. Fake bots, fake opinions, lack of transparency. How are you looking at them as a business, as one of the most prominent publishing businesses?
Yeah. There’s two sides to this. One is, we have to be clear-eyed that these are the most powerful information monopolies in the history of the world. Specifically, Facebook and Google, probably in that order.
And Twitter is just bothersome over here. It’s a little cesspool over here.
Twitter is just ruining all our days.
I noticed you’ve done, he has done two tweets.
Oh God, it’s so embarrassing. Did you read them?
Yeah, it was 2010.
I was ordered to go on the Twitter by the National Editor.
The fact that you just said “I was ordered to go on the Twitter.”
Yeah, I know.
It’s not the Twitter.
Did I say the Twitter?
Yeah you did.
I know it’s not the Twitter. That was a stutter.
Right, okay. On the Twitter, two Twitters, the tweets from 2010, is pathetic. It’s just depressing. I tweeted twice from the bathroom.
I know. They were done on consecutive days. They were my first two days.
Yes, and they’re super dull tweets.
And then I think every media critic in America immediately started following me and I was like holy shit this is a high wire act, I’m gonna get out of here. Which, I know, is a sign of weakness in your world.
Yeah, you do.
What were you ...
I’m not even going to ask about Instagram or Tinder. Talk about their impact ... you need to use social media more. Just in general, that’s my advice to you. How do you look at them? How do you deal with them? Are they as important to your business going forward?
Yeah, these are the two most powerful information monopolies in the history of the world. And they are where a huge percentage of the global population go to get their news. And we need to own that. We cannot pretend, if we want to introduce our work to a new generation, we cannot pretend that we can just ignore these spaces. We know we have to be engaging with Facebook, with Google, with Twitter, with Snapchat, some of these other places. But we also know, because there’s a pretty clear track record right now that these are not journalistic institutions and they do not share values. And quite frankly, and I’m sure there’s a bunch of people in this room who have bet that “we crack the code.” They do not care if you succeed for fail. They both do not care if you succeed or fail affirmatively. But also they’re comfortable just accidentally stomping you to death, with an algorithm change. I think getting to that sweet spot of what is clear eyed engagement, where we understand that these are platforms that are not journalistic platforms, they don’t particularly care about journalism. But they are place where journalism is found and consumed, and you can introduce yourself to quality journalism.
Do you think they’re media companies?
Everyone means something sort of different by that. What do you mean by that?
Do you think they’re media companies? They have immunity that you do not have. You cannot get it wrong. They have an actual law that they get immunity for all that crap that’s on their platform. Which is precisely why all that crap is on their platform.
I look back at, and anyone who’s working at a newspaper has to recognize that it’s only a matter of decades since, we had this ad monopoly, right? And the reason we were able to pour money into quality journalism is because we had an ad monopoly, we had a distribution monopoly, in the communities we covered. What’s striking right now is there are two new companies with that ad monopoly and they have it more profoundly than ever before. Where we would personally vet every single ad and make sure it met our standards. We had 60 page standards book with all these different obscure rules about, like, diet pills can’t be advertised. We felt that that was part of our obligation. Part of the social responsibility that comes with that role in the community.
Because you’re adults that took a humanities course in college and these are people that did not.
You said that, not me, yeah.
Yeah, I say it again. They shouldn’t be running these companies. What do you do with them? How do they ...
How do we work with them?
Look, we’ve actually got pretty good partnerships. Particularly Google, we’ve got a decent partnership where they come to us, we come to them, figure out how to work together on specific issues and the relationships are good. You know this. It’s not that these folks set out to destroy journalism, right? If you’re coming in a clear-eyed way of what you want to accomplish and clear-eyed that you need to have a ... that your journalism needs to have its own center of gravity and you can’t bet the farm on these platforms. Then I think you can work with them. But what else are we doing? We’re also reporting the hell out of these stories.
Yes. Nice Google piece today, well done, I have to say. You all should read it. Essentially, let me translate, they’re very naughty at Google and it’s bad. It’s real bad over at Google. It’s a fantastic story. So then how do you get big then? I want to finish up talking about this idea. How do you get big then, you’re pretty small. You’re a pretty small organization, you’re the New York Times. Do you think you think big enough? Because sometimes I feel like the media organizations ... and I think I said it to one of your editors when I was talking about, is think small and then think smaller. How do you get bigger? How do you imagine, with these things, these giant semis running down the highway, owning the digital advertising, pretty much, not gonna be broken up at this point at least. Does the New York Times think big enough about its brand and how do you get there?
I’ll take any advice you have to offer. Look, I think a few things. One, we stopped holding the future at arm’s length and under Dean and his team, it feels like we’ve finally understood that we are going to need to succeed as a digital news company and that’s going to look different. It’s not going to change who we are, we are still an organization that’s fundamentally built around original, on the ground, reported, expert, obsessively verified independent journalism.
Which is core.
That’s the core, that doesn’t change. But what form that journalism takes … right now, more people are listening to The Daily every day — which is our news podcast — than ever opened up the front page of the New York Times. I think one answer to that is we’re trying to embrace change as an organization.
What does that mean to you? People say I’m embracing change, but I have no idea what they’re talking about, so what does that mean from your perspective?
It means a lot of things. It means understanding that, among other things, that print is our mature business and it matters and it’s providing a ton of revenue that we need to support our big, ambitious journalism. But it’s also something that’s gonna shrink every year and we’re going to need to replace it with a thriving digital business. Embracing change means figuring out what the digital incarnation of cooking, our food section, is. And it turns out, it’s an app of recipes. It means figuring out what the daily front page experience looks like in a digital environment. It turns out it’s something like The Daily. It means experimenting, making the report much more visual. It means integrating serious technical chops into our newsroom in a really profound ways that allows us to do an investigation into Twitter that can systematically expose the widespread bot fraud that had been hiding under the surface.
Yeah, they’re all… recently Maggie Haberman was responding to a bot and I had to text her and say stop talking to the bots. You’re talking to the bots. She didn’t even realize it. You’re right. That’s a good investigation to do. But go ahead.
I actually lost my train of thought.
Alright. A.G. what is going to save the New York Times in the future? That’s a pretty important question, that was the question. What else?
You’re asking about growth and I think-
Where do you get that? How do you get it?
Where do you get that? I think that the internet had this myth of infiniteness that tricked a lot of us and that caused a lot of us to obsess over more. There’s more content. And the word content actually to me —
Well, it suggests this very specific thing, right? Content is something that fills a content bucket, right? And journalism, or if you’re in a different industry like television or whatever, requires an affirmative vision, right?
We believe that people, in an on-demand environment, which the internet is, and now radio is, and now television is, in an on-demand environment, people will gravitate towards the best stuff.
And so, our business strategy today has boiled down to “make stuff that’s worth paying for.” And it’s that simple, make stuff that’s worth paying for. And the growth question is interesting. It’s for like six or seven years out from everyone making fun of us for believing that people will pay for journalism. And now I suspect most of the news organizations in this room either have a paywall or are looking at one. And I don’t think we fully know what the growth potential is, because I think that the market hasn’t fully developed.
Let me lay a premise out.
There’s a paper in Washington, that a billionaire bought, for not much money actually, it was kind of a bargain for him.
I heard about that, yeah.
Jeff Bezos has $164 billion, right? Which is a lot of money. Would you ever see the need to have that kind of investment from one of these massive billionaires? What would happen if say ... the one I think should buy you is Laurene Jobs, but that’s my ... I bugged her about it.
The New York Times is not for sale.
I get that. But what would you ... I get that. Okay. But here’s ... Well, wait. Let me just say. What would you do ... It’s not for sale because you’re thinking in a different term. What would you do with a billion dollars? What would the New York Times do if they had a billion dollars to deploy?
I get this question occasionally and —
But hear me out. It’s an interesting question in the abstract. But when you actually look at the reality on the ground, Jeff Bezos has been very clear that he wants the Washington Post to make a profit. So yes, the richest man not just on Earth but I believe in the history of Earth bought this newspaper.
He’s leaving Earth, but go ahead. Him and Elon are going off to Mars. It’s like with their ... with their ... They work out a lot. They do. Go ahead, sorry. I digress.
So he bought this newspaper, and yes he started investing in it again.
And all of us at the New York Times are delighted to see that because quite frankly we need more journalists in this country.
And it is not a zero sum game. And we need a healthy Washington Post in this country. And so we are delighted to see it growing again. But the Washington Post is still a significantly smaller paper than the New York Times, and another paper owned by a billionaire, the Wall Street Journal, another very fine paper owned by a billionaire is...
Not such a fine billionaire, but go ahead, again, come on. Okay, Wall Street Journal people, I worked there, go ahead.
is also smaller. So I mean, I do not think that for a second-
You need that, but you need it.
I do not think for a second that the ownership structure of the New York Times is somehow hindering our ability to invest in great journalism. The last year we’ve expanded our Washington bureau, we’ve expanded our tech coverage.
What about massive investment?
We’ve expanded our business coverage.
Startups get mass investments. The other day a dog-walking firm got a billion dollars, it was insane. Why would you not want that investment to do great local journalism? I could think of a million things I could do with a billion dollars.
Yeah. Point to me where someone has just thrown a ton of money at the journalism problem, just thrown a ton of money and it’s worked out well. I’ve seen some really great, honorable intentions from folks who I will not name here, but...
Talking about Fusion right?
I think —
Got it. I was there.
I think what we need to do is we need to build a business that sustains journalism. We cannot just be reliant on the altruism of people. We don’t want a government-run news organization like we see in other... The thing that makes the New York Times special, the thing that I think distinguishes us from almost any other news organization, not any, but among a handful of news organizations, is its independence. That is baked into every fiber of what this institution is. I don’t think it’s separate from...
I do think that the New York Times with a billion dollars is different than other organizations, because you all will use it correctly.
Well then we’re just going to go, we’re going to have to go out...
You just refuse to take the money I’m offering.
No, we’re going to have to make that billion dollars ourselves.
And? Can you?
What’s that? Can we grow that big? Look, I’m really optimistic. We’ve got three and a half million subscribers now, which is more than any newspaper at the peak of print. I feel like we’re still growing. I feel like we’re still learning how to succeed in this digital space, and I feel like the market for paid journalism is still growing and maturing, as well. I’m optimistic. I really believe it when I say that. I don’t think people are dumb, I think people want stuff worth paying for.
I think they want the best journalism. It’s part of the reason I always answer the opposition question the way I do. It’s so easy to get drawn into cycles, but trust is a long game. What we do, our mission, seek the truth, hold power to account, help people understand the world, that’s perfect for this moment, but it’s also perfect for every moment. I believe when the noise clears and the smoke clears and we all look around, we’re going to be hungry for news sources you can trust.
Alright, last question. What is the thing you’ve done that’s just most boneheaded of all, this year?
That I’ve done personally?
As, now you’re the CEO, you’ve got the job title, you’ve got the suit going on.
Our CEO is actually here today.
Not the CEO. Sorry, the publisher, publisher. I know, Mark.
I’m not making any moves, Mark, don’t worry.
I’m sorry Mark, I don’t mean CEO, the publisher. I know all your boneheaded moves, but go ahead. I’m teasing. I love his Facebook stuff. What do you think you’ve done well, and one thing you’ve done not, that you were like, “Oh, I gotta...”
I don’t know. I’ve actually enjoyed this, but it felt pretty boneheaded not to ask who the moderator of this talk was going to be.
Well done. Well played, young man. Alright, a real one.
A real one. I thought I got out of that.
Oh gosh, I don’t know.
What do you need to learn? I’ll make it easy.
So much, I’m 38 years old and I’m stepping into a big role at a critical moment. I remember the announcement about my appointment had gone out, I think 10 days before the election or something like that. We had drawn up the front page, “Madam President.”
That’s something. The meter was going off and on, go ahead.
Yeah. You know what, why don’t we just blame the needle on me. Should we do that for the bonehead?
The needle, it was such a mindfuck, but go ahead.
I just remember this moment at the end of the night, or the next morning, I was like, “Oh, wow. This is a real moment.” I went into this job thinking, “All we have to do, as a company, as a leadership team, me in this role is find the sustainable business model to save quality journalism.” Now we also have to defend the underlying precept of free press in a functioning democracy.
I feel like I have a ton to learn. I feel like I’m learning a lot everyday. I’m sure if you get a couple drinks in these guys every one of them will have some boneheaded thing.
They don’t need drinks to do that. Journalism people just vomit up information all the time. So you think, if you looked at the New York Times 10 years from now, you’re 10 years in the job, what does it look like?
I hope it feels exactly the same. I hope that sense of what it stands for and what you expect when you interact, but I hope that we’ve got a big TV show that people tune into once a week, which we’re launching at the beginning of next year. That people have learned as like, dives into something deeply and in a sophisticated way that makes them pay attention to something that they didn’t think that they had to pay attention to, whether it’s genocide in Myanmar or the systematic starvation of children in Yemen.
I hope that we have realized that quality journalism is what we do and that it can take a million forms and I hope we’ve proven that it has a big global audience. I hope that we have proven that to enough of a degree that we have lessons that we can push back into the industry because I really do believe that journalism is an ecosystem that needs to rise collectively. I don’t think there’s one institution, no matter how much you grow, that’s going to grow big enough to support the needs of our society.