No, this was not an evaluation of the journalism of the Times. It was a Standard & Poor's rating of the financial condition of the Times. This report was in Friday's FT. Here's how it was reported there: "Standard and Poor's slashed its rating of the New York Times Company by three notches to junk yesterday after the publisher reported impairment charges, a quarterly underlying loss and a review of the dividend policy." You can also read about it in Friday's Wall Street Journal or, for that matter, in the Times itself. It's not a happier tale there.
As with all dismal reports by S&P, it was late in coming, very late. So what did Moody's, another in the trio of usually cheery rating organizations, do? It warned that it, too, might lower its Times grading, also to junk. For what is it waiting? The fact is that Moody's finally downgraded Lehman to junk after it went bankrupt. As I have written many times before, the rating companies will soon be found to have caused much of the current disaster by issuing fallacious (which I assume is related to "false") appraisals.
One of the problems of the Times is that it also owns the Boston Globe, my breakfast newspaper. And no wonder that it takes me at least an hour to get over my grouchiness after reading it, which takes about five minutes.
But don't think that the Times isn't doing anything to remedy its predicament. It is reconsidering its dividend which is particularly lush. It has, reports the WSJ, increased over the years in "continuation of the company's tradition of richly rewarding shareholders." This includes the Ochs-Sulzberger family which controls the publishing empire through a special class of stock and receives about $25 million annually. Nice tradition.
And there's even a journalistic innovation reported in the same day's Times. "Times Asks Bono To Write Column," reads the headline. The story goes on: "Bono, the activist, philanthropist and U2 front man, has been invited to write an Op-Ed page column for The New York Times." Not one. But many. The editors "are still finalizing the details."
Who among the regular columnists should be nervous?