Ad Age scored an extremely rare interview with Arthur Sulzberger Jr. today. It’s good placement for The New York Times publisher and chairman: his company is days away from releasing second-quarter earnings results, which aren’t looking particularly great. Some good press is a welcome event since this year has arguably been one of Mr. Sulzberger’s most challenging as publisher. The paper lost money last quarter; he’s getting divorced from his wife; the paper experienced lay offs in the newsroom for the first time.
But you won’t find any mention of the divorce in the profile, and only a small bit on the company’s terrible year. In order to get the sit-down, Ad Age probably had to agree to lots and lots of conditions. (One bit of the profile that’s getting attention is a response to something five years old: Mr. Sulzberger admitted regret over the infamous toy-Moose fiasco during the Jayson Blair scandal.)
Also, for the first time, Mr. Sulzberger publicly addressed a question about Rupert Murdoch and the budding rivalary between the Times and The Wall Street Journal. And he said, there’s not much that the Times should do to prepare for war. As (former Timesmen) Nat Ives writes:
Despite this expansion into the Journal‘s core competency, Mr. Sulzberger avoids talk of direct confrontation. As a London correspondent for the AP from 1976 to 1978, when he joined the Times, he saw British papers react when Mr. Murdoch took over the Times of London. ‘It didn’t help them, because they stopped remembering who they were,’ he said. ‘We’re not going to.’
His confidence in the brand can occasionally sound wishful. ‘The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Newsday or any other competitor can’t steal our readers,’ he said. ‘We can lose them. And we’re not going to lose them.’