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Dept Of Executive (over-)compensation, Media Edition

The Boston Herald reports today that Boston Globe publisher P. Steven Ainsley--the man who's asking the Globe's unions to agree to $20 million in cuts or say goodbye to their paper--made $1.9 million last year. As Dan Kennedy observes:

For years, executives of news organizations — and corporations in general — paid themselves ridiculous amounts of money and argued that it was their expertise that led their companies to be so profitable.

Now we know they were essentially taking credit for the sunrise and paying themselves for it. The fraud has been exposed for all to see.

Or, as Warren Buffett once put it (in a quote I originally read in Paul Starr's excellent essay on the decline of the newspaper industry):

As one not-too-bright publisher famously said, "I owe my fortune to two great American institutions: monopoly and nepotism." No paper in a one-paper city, however bad the product or however inept the management, could avoid gushing profits.

What's really surpising, though, is that the outrageous levels of executive compensation survived even after the profits went away. It's not necessarily the fault of Ainsley or other New York Times executives that the Globe lost $50 million last year--there are forces at work here that are beyond their control. But it's hard to believe that Ainsley got paid nearly $2 million to oversee those losses.

--Jason Zengerle