Conrad Black and Pals Plan to Launch The New York Sun

Conrad Black, the owner of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Jerusalem Post , finally has at least a piece of a New York newspaper.

A group of investors including Mr. Black intends to spend up to $15 million to launch a new daily newspaper expected to appear sometime early next year, a source familiar with the venture told Off the Record. The paper, likely to be called The New York Sun , will be edited by former Forward editor in chief Seth Lipsky along with his protégé, Ira Stoll, the editor of Smartertimes.com, a Web site known for its critiques of The New York Times .

For more than a year, Mr. Stoll has been promising that Smartertimes.com would one day lead to the creation of “a new newspaper that would offer an alternative to the dominant daily.” The Sun , which will appear five days a week, is expected to cover city news but also embody the same neoconservative values that shaped Mr. Stoll’s attacks on The Times as well as The Forward under Mr. Lipsky, sources said.

Neither Mr. Lipsky nor Mr. Stoll would comment for this story. But an outline of the paper emerged from others involved in its genesis, including people who have been approached about working for the publication. There have been other clues: Starting in October, classified ads began running on Smartertimes.com in search of a business executive to run a new newspaper’s advertising and circulation effort (“Compensation in the low six-figures”) as well as editorial staff (“Willing to work long hours in an entrepreneurial, start-up environment”). In early November, Mr. Lipsky registered several Internet addresses, including newyorksun.com and nysun.com. And on Nov. 7, he applied for a trademark of the title The New York Sun .

Backing the new paper, sources said, is a group of nine or 10 investors that includes Mr. Black-chairman and chief executive of Hollinger International Inc.-as well as Michael Steinhardt, a former hedge-fund manager and prominent Democratic Party donor, who up until mid-2000 owned half of The Forward but is still the paper’s vice chairman. Since Mr. Lipsky was pushed out as editor in chief at The Forward , he and Mr. Steinhardt have maintained close contact, sources said. In the ideological battle between Mr. Lipsky and The Forward ‘s board of directors-Mr. Lipsky’s neoconservative leanings did not sit well with the more liberal board-Mr. Steinhardt offered to buy the other half of the Jewish weekly in order to keep Mr. Lipsky at the helm. Rebuffed by the board, Mr. Lipsky ultimately left the paper in April 2000, and Mr. Stoll, who had been managing editor, followed later that summer.

Reached at his home, Mr. Steinhardt confirmed that he had invested in the daily-to-be but declined to discuss other participants.

“Seth is a terrific editor with great skills and great history,” Mr. Steinhardt said, “and some of the investors were drawn to him and his sidekick, Ira Stoll.”

Mr. Steinhardt said that when he last heard, the paper was to launch in January. He also took issue with the “conservative” label.

“I don’t know if I’d call it ‘conservative,’” Mr. Steinhardt said when asked of the paper’s political bent. “I myself am not a conservative, but some of the other investors are.”

As for Mr. Black, neither he nor Hollinger officials returned repeated requests for comment. Mr. Black has made previous attempts to acquire a New York publication, including attempts to buy the Daily News as well as The Observer .

In launching The Sun , Mr. Lipsky and Mr. Stoll will return an old name to New York newsstands. The New York Sun was the first successful penny-press daily after its birth in 1833, appealing to a working-class readership with lurid crime reporting and pro-union, pro-immigrant views. Today, its most famous moment is the “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter, which ran in 1897. The Sun finally folded in 1950.

New York Press editor in chief and C.E.O. Russ Smith, who has pined for a conservative alternative to The Times in his weekly Mugger column, relished the debut of The Sun. “I think it’s a great idea, and I’d like to write for it,” Mr. Smith said. But while he said he thought there was a large audience for a Times alternative, Mr. Smith added that it’s a tough time to launch a newspaper: “One would have to be skeptical of a start-up daily newspaper’s success.”

-Gabriel Snyder and Sridhar Pappu

You may not have noticed, but the Sunday Styles section, that appetizer of the Sunday New York Times people turn to first before plowing into the thick coverage of war and terrorism, is no longer an exclusive New York City pleasure. As of Sept. 30, the section has been now included in the national edition of The New York Times , which on Sunday has a circulation of about 800,000 outside the New York metropolitan area.

The national launch of Sunday Styles, long discussed, came at an awkward time for the section. There was, of course, Sept. 11, and before that, a new executive editor, Howell Raines, who took over on Sept. 5. There have also been some staff departures, complicating the heavy lifting of putting out a weekly section. And then, of course, there’s the $64,000 question: How do you change a city-oriented section if you’re writing for a national audience?

Trip Gabriel, who edits Sunday Styles and the fashion section, said there has been an internal debate on that point. And much to the relief of people who fear reading about a night out at the Nashville Swine Ball, Mr. Gabriel comes down on the side of trying to maintain the section’s roots.

“I think that to the extent we were a trend section, a lot of trends start in New York, or they start in L.A., and I think we continue to cover them,” Mr. Gabriel said. “We’re not going to give equal weight to Seattle, Minneapolis and St. Louis just because we’re now distributed in all those places.”

Mr. Gabriel’s boss, Barbara Graustark-who, as head of the Times style department, oversees Sunday Styles, House & Home, Dining In/Dining Out, as well as the fashion pages-said it’s possible to write stories that appeal to both New York and the heartland. As examples, she pointed to a recent story about traveling home for the holidays and an assessment of ABC’s broadcast of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. The section’s challenge, she said, is “trying to take stories that are as relevant to a national audience as a New York audience.”

Though the section has been national for about two months now, the editors said it’s still trying to feel its way. Originally, the plan was to do a soft launch in September and then do a more public rejiggering in January. There had also been talk about giving the section more columns to fill, but at last word from Ms. Graustark, that isn’t going to happen.

Meanwhile, world events have dictated that the style folks mostly figure out things themselves. Said one Times staffer, “It’s my impression that [assistant managing editor] Andy Rosenthal and [managing editor] Gerald Boyd are all-hands-on-deck with the war effort, and the back of the book is largely unsupervised.”

But Mr. Gabriel denied being orphaned. “In no sense are we suffering from the neglect of the executive editor or any members of the masthead,” he said. “We’re a pretty autonomous section in a fairly autonomous department. I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s not on [Mr. Raines'] mind-he has a lot on his mind.”

Said Ms. Graustark: “I can only imagine how busy Howell and Gerald are. I have not heard from them what the section should be doing …. I am sure I would hear from them if they didn’t think the section was doing what it should be”

But as it moves to a larger audience, the Sunday Styles section is also being assembled by fewer people. At the end of the summer, the section lost its deputy editor, Ilene Rosenzweig, and staff reporter Rick Marin. Alex Kuczynski, who had been a media reporter on the business desk, moved over to the section, but the deputy editor position-the person who does most of the line editing-remains unfilled, though Ms. Rosenzweig still comes in one day a week to help with assignments. For a while, former Harper’s Bazaar beauty director Christine Shea was coming in several days a week, but that was only a temporary stint. Said a Times source: “They don’t really have the manpower to put out the section without breaking everyone’s back.”

But help is on the way. Ms. Graustark said the section is actually looking to hire another writer. “This addition to the staff is really a relief,” she said.

In the meantime, Kate Betts, the former editor of Harper’s Bazaar , could always pitch in. She wrote a story in the Oct. 28 issue about wartime style icons.

Mr. Gabriel said Ms. Betts will be contributing some more stories for Styles. “I expect her byline will appear in the section again soon,” he said. “She’s got a busy life these days, but she’s got such great skills as a journalist and a depth of authority on fashion that it’s a treat to have her writing for us.”

-G.S.

Last week, this column detailed a brouhaha between the Web site Free Williamsburg and The Village Voice . The former had accused The Voice , in its Nov. 13 issue, of ripping off a story it had done in September on the music scene in that bastion of coolness. Their case? The Voice profiled the same clubs, quoted from the Free Williamsburg piece without attribution and used the same awful headline: “A Scene Grows in Brooklyn.”

Now it appears that someone may actually be the beneficiary of this: Grant Moser, the writer who penned the original piece for Free Williamsburg. According to Mr. Moser, he left a message with The Voice last Monday saying he should write for them, and he soon heard back from music editor Chuck Eddy saying yes, he should. After sending in a couple of ideas, Mr. Moser said last Thursday The Voice sent one of their own for him to pursue.

“Is it everything I wanted?” Mr. Moser said. “No. But in life, you don’t always get everything you want.”

Mr. Eddy said there wasn’t any penance going on here, because there was no sin to repent for.

“He called and I e-mailed him back,” Mr. Eddy said. “It’s conceivable that he might write something for us. But I wouldn’t call it a make-good.”

-S.P.