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Sulzberger's Underrated Political Instincts

Tom Edsall has a fascinating piece in the HuffPo about the bitterness within the Times building over outsize bonuses for the company's top executives. The bonuses aren't going down well, to put it mildly, at a time when the company is making some painful cuts. CEO Janet Robinson seems to loom largest in the Timesmen's demonology:

According to the New York Times proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, corporate president and CEO Janet L. Robinson received a total compensation package valued at $5.58 million in 2008, up well over a million from the $4.14 million she received in 2007, and the $4.4 million she received in 2006.

By contrast, Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger has retained the goodwill of his rank and file:

A number of NYT staffers contacted said that there was considerably more resentment voiced on the newsroom floor, and in newspaper guild meetings, about Robinson's pay than about compensation awarded to Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the NYT board chairman and publisher.

Staffers noted that even though Sulzberger received bonuses and other compensation more than doubling to $2.4 million his base salary of $1,087,000, his total compensation package has declined substantially over the past three years from $3.4 million in 2007 and $4.4 million in 2006. In addition to his 2008 base salary, Sulzberger's total compensation included a bonus of $38,045, stock awards of $54,443, option awards of $29,832, a non-equity compensation plan distribution of $597,850, a change in pension plan valuation and non-qualified deferred compensation worth $559,826, and $48,878 in "other compensation," according to the proxy. ...

[M]any reporters and editors are grateful to Sulzberger for refusing to impose massive layoffs and buyouts as many other newspapers have done. On Monday, when the Times newsroom celebrated winning five Pulitzer prizes, many of the speakers went out of their way to voice their support for Sulzberger. "It was surprising, and, I have to say, it was moving," said another reporter who was there.

Don't let it be said that the guy isn't savvy.

--Noam Scheiber