The Beginning of The New York Times
The New York Times (hereafter referred to as NYT) was founded on September 18, 1851 by a journalist named Henry Jarvis Raymond. Raymond originally founded the paper under the name of New-York Daily Times. The name was shortened to The New-York Times in 1857, and the hyphen was dropped in the 1890s. Raymond was a member of the Whig Party and a chairman of the Republican Party National Committee. As an active political commentator and citizen, Raymond wanted a medium through which he could express his political opinions. The first edition of the paper sold for only one penny, and it was released as a way to explain to the readers what future editions of the paper would entail.
One excerpt from this first published paper reads:
“We shall be “Conservative”, in all cases where we think Conservatism essential to the public good;–and we shall be Radical in everything which may seem to us to require radical treatment and radical reform. We do not believe that “everything” in Society is either exactly right or exactly wrong;–what is good we desire to preserve and improve;–what is evil, to exterminate, or reform.”
This, to me, is a strategic definition of the NYT because it appeals to the conservative audiences as well as the radical, liberal audiences. As a new paper in a polarized 19th century American nation, I believe that the key element to success in circulation, popularity and sales is appeal to a broad range of audiences. By using the statement quoted above, I think NYT editors and owners were attempting to remain neutral in politics before they officially chose a side. Once a side is chosen, if ever a side is chosen, the support of the other party is lost. As a new newspaper, this would be a poor loss of support in the early stages of a growing business.
The NYT originally published on a Monday-Saturday schedule. On April 21, 1861 the paper published its first Sunday paper. This Sunday paper covered the Civil War, and many of the following Sunday papers thereafter would cover the Civil War until its completion. Twenty of the paper’s editorials were published on the Mortara Affair, which was the controversy over Edgardo Levi Mortara, who was removed from his parents by authorities because his parents were not Catholic and it was illegal for non-Catholic parents to raise Catholic children. This was the first controversial editorial that the NYT posted. The Civil War was a significant component of interest in America during its occurrence, so the NYT’s choice to ad Sunday editorials that would detail the war and its progress is a strategic attempt at acquiring new readers. In addition to the Civil War coverage, the NYT’s broader news range covering the Mortara affair gives the paper an advancement beyond other newspapers who were only publishing Civil War ads and reports.
Early Signs of Controversy
The NYT quickly experienced its fair share of adversity. During the height of wartime in America, military conscription for the Northern Union Army began as a means to prepare armies for the Civil War. These drafts began on July 13, 1863, and they gave rise to the New York Draft Riots. The main, administrative office of the NYT was violently attacked by rioters against the draft. In New York City across from City Hall existed Newspaper Row, and this is where the office of the NYT was located. Owner and editor at the time of the NYT Henry Raymond used Gatling guns to break up the riots. Eventually, the Brooklyn City Police aided Manhattan authorities in breaking up the riots.
The New York Times Building
The first location of the newspaper headquarters was at 113 Nassau Street in NYC. It moved into a new headquarter location located at 41 Park Row in NYC. This move into the Park Row district made history for NYT because it was the first time a newspaper cooperation moved into a building that was built specifically for the use by the paper’s executives. The paper’s headquarters then moved to 1475 Broadway in NYC in 1904. The well-known tradition of dropping the New Year’s Eve ball takes place at the NYT headquarters, known as One Times Square. In fact, when the paper first moved to Broadway, the location was known as Longacre Square. It was later renamed Times Square in honor of the highly successful paper. Today, the paper operates from The New York Times Building, known locally as Times Tower, which is located in Manhattan. it was designed by Renzo Piano. The NYT also owns a state-of-the-art printing factory in Queens.
Growing Success and the Search for Identifying a Target Audience
While the paper found moderate success in its beginning years, its true influence and attention grew significantly during 1870-1871 when publications on William Magear (“Boss”) Tweed hit the newsstands. Tweed was the leader of the Democratic Party, which in the 1870s was popularly known as “Tammany Hall”. These publications on William Tweed and his corruption of big business operation led to the demise of what could easily be considered his empire. Tweed dominated New York’s City Hall before the NYT published facts about the corruption taking place right under New York’s watch. Much unlike the first publication of the paper’s stated intentions, the NYT adapted a Republican-favored support position. In the 1880s, though, the NYT transitioned from this republican support towards a politically independent and analytical outlook, which is more true to the original ideals defined by the first published paper. Venturing from republican support to partisan neutrality was not the final stop in the 1880s for the paper. In 1884, the NYT publically supported a democrat candidate for the presidential election—Grover Cleveland.
I think these changing political alliances express the youth of the NYT as a company. It takes time to identify a stance on majorly controversial issues like politics, so I believe it is only natural that the NYT swayed from neutrality to republicanism to democratic views. Nowadays, the NYT is more in favor of democratic views than republican views. This is addressed further along in this comprehensive profile of the NYT.
This decision to support a democratic candidate proved to be detrimental—temporarily—for the paper’s success. The NYT lost conservative, upper-class readers for some time during the presidential election. Thereafter, though, the NYT established itself concretely as providing accurate, fair reporting. In 1896, a new owner of the paper emerged, and his name was Adolph Ochs. With the appointment of a new owner and a now-definite position of bipartisan, equal reporting, the paper quickly gained back its lost conservative readers as well as thousands of other readers. Adolph Ochs is credited with coining the slogan that is still to this day found on the paper’s upper right hand corner of the front page. This slogan says “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”
This slogan is widely thought of as an attack in the media against yellow journalism of Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Hearst’s New York Journal. Although a satirical poking-of-fun at the other journalists and newspapers who were printing false news and opinions, I think this slogan is an effective means of advertising the validity and transparency of the NYT.
Growing technological advances supplemented the already-strong news reporting machine. In 1904, the NYT received the first on-the-spot wireless telegraph transmission, and this report came from a naval battle. The transmission reported the destruction of the Imperial Russian Navy’s Baltic Fleet during the Battle of Port Arthur. This was one large component of what is known as one of the most historical and significant battles during the Russo-Japanese War. This transmission signal, though only one small signal, provided the NYT with international attention. National attention was growing quickly, too. Philadelphians first read the NYT in 1910 after planes delivered the papers to Philadelphia. Londoners first were able to read the paper in 1919, which was the first year that the papers were flown trans-Atlantic. In 1920, the papers were delivered early in the mornings around 4am by plane into Chicago so that Republican convention delegates could keep up with the political events during the convention season.
After nearly a century of success, the NYT had established itself as being an even-handed, fair reporter of the truth within politics, opinions, and worldly news. In order to continue to attract audiences, the NYT extended its content and purpose. In 1942, the crossword section first appeared in the paper. This was an attempt by Ochs to keep the paper friendly, attractive and inviting to its readers. The news and politics offered a heavy realization of the world around the readers, so the crosswords were an attempt to lighten the mood. A fashion section of the paper began publication in 1946. I think this, in addition to the crosswords addition, was a successful move by NYT because it attracts women and teenagers to the papers. Although papers were distributed internationally in 1919, the first official international NYT edition was published in 1946, and it lasted until 1967. The NYT joined alongside New York Herald Tribune and The Washington Post to create the International Herald Tribune. This international conglomeration between the three newspaper companies offered comprehensive, all-in-one news to the world, and it also eliminated potential conflict in sales that would arise with having three international newspapers instead of one. More expansion of the paper’s reach came along win the NYT bought WQXR, a classical radio station, in 1946. This was an FM broadcasting station, but NYT also owned the AM-broadcasted WQEW. By owning these radio stations, the NYT was able to reach a significant amount of people that they couldn’t reach from print alone. In addition to a broader audience, these radio stations gave the NYT a financial edge because they were able to lease out their frequencies to other users such as ABC Radio, who used the NYT radio stations to broadcast their Radio Disney program.
The NYT had a successful increase in sales, population and attention. It is currently the third most circulated newspaper in the United States behind USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. Since the 1980s, the paper has circulated more than one million copies per day, but in 2009, circulation dropped to 928,000 (a 7.3 percent decrease). In December of 2010, 906,100 copies of the paper were reported as being circulated on weekdays. On Sundays, 1,356,800 copies were circulated. It sells for $2.50 every day except for Sundays, when it sells for $5.00. I think that the decrease in circulation since the 1980s is due to an increase in different journalists and newspapers that offer news in new and unique ways. I also think that aggregated news sites like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post which profit from taking previously written articles and redistributing them have caused less attention to be placed upon traditional papers like the NYT.
Even more attempts to keep reader numbers up came around in the 2000s. In October of 2009, the paper added a Bay Area section for readers in California, and in November of 2009, Chicago special editions were added. These unique, geographically-centered editions within the NYT contained information on local news, policy and sports. Local advertisements also existed.
In order to keep up with industry standards, the NYT decided to change their paper size 12 inches wide instead of 13.5 inches. This change became official in print on August 6, 2007. Following additional trends in print media, the NYT has reduced their worker numbers and they’ve cut expenses used to print the paper. This is due to growing online news outlets and social media coverage of the news.
New York Times Company v. Sullivan
In 1964, a pivotal case in mass media became the talk of the country. The NYT advertised negative statements against the Alabama police force under the management of L.B. Sullivan. In this case, the NYT went on trial against Sullivan, and the United States Supreme Court established an “actual malice” standard for any and all press reports regarding those in public office. This ruling said that public figures needed to prove that libel or defamation against the public figure was an act of malice and disregard for the truth. Because this was hard to prove, these cases rarely succeeded. This case allowed journalists and newspapers to freely report the civil rights campaigns of the South. Before the lawsuit took place, though, the NYT did retract their ad due to the demands of Alabama Governor John Patterson.
The retraction of their commentary against Sullivan speaks upon the leadership and character within the staff at the NYT. I think that their initial attempts to right what was viewed as wrong expressed strong public relation skills by the company. By sticking to their lawsuit and their belief in the commitment of providing valid and unbiased news, the NYT has proven itself to be a loyal and dedicated newspaper. I think the end results of the NYT v. Sullivan lawsuit are an incredible representation of the power, loyalty, and passion for accurate news-writing of the New York Times Company.
The Pentagon Papers
Daniel Ellsberg, a former official from the Department of State, and Anthony Russo gave the NYT documents that would follow the paper and the government through the years to come. These documents are known as the Pentagon Papers, and they were passed along to Neil Sheehan of the NYT in 1971. The Pentagon Papers contain secretive information regarding US involvement in the Vietnam War from 1945 to 1967. The Pentagon Papers were so controversial during publication because they revealed expansion efforts taken by the US government during the time when President Lyndon Johnson promised the American people neutrality in the war. Americans were furious, they lost trust in their government, and this all gave the Nixon administration a difficult time in trying to deal with the growing war. Nixon administration filed a lawsuit to get the NYT to cease publication. This lawsuit became known as New York Times Co. v. United States, and on June 30, 1971, the court ruled that the injunctions from Nixon administration were unconstitutional because they didn’t meet the burden of proof. Americans thought that this was a loose win for the First Amendment. They felt that the absolute right to complete freedom of speech, especially in times of national security, was not completed recognized by the government. Future publishers felt like they had little protection when it came to publishing truths regarding the government, military, and politicians.
Woman in the Work Force
Traditionally, the NYT was an all-male staff of writers and editors. The first woman to be hired by the NYT was Jane Grant. She was a reporter for the newspaper, but she was strictly guided to not express that she—a woman—was writing for the NYT. Her career with the NYT ended within the arrival of World War I because Grant decided to leave the paper to pursue a career in the arts with the YMCA. The NYT also hired Kathleen McLaughlin after her successful ten years spent at the Chicago Tribune. During a time when women were not allowed to interview world leaders according to the National Press Club and when there was a such thing as the “woman’s point of view,” the NYT remained dedicated to keeping woman within the working realm of the paper.
Whether woman or man, though, it made no difference for the downfall that came along in February of 2013. The NYT stopped offering tenured, lifelong positions to writers and workers of the paper due to a decline in prominence of print journalism.
Growing demands for social media and online news delivery lessen the demands for print journalism, and this of course lessens the need for tenured reporters and editors. I don’t personally think that print journalism will ever completely die out. There is an element of substance and tradition within printed newspapers, and I don’t think this will ever go extinct. Much like classic, glass bottle coke cans are purchased in stores for fun, so will newspapers be bought on the newsstands.
The NYT has been owned and run by the Ochs-Sulzberger family since 1896, and its highest amounts of success were found during this ownership. Previously, the NYT was not as successful as it became when Adolph Ochs purchased the company and renamed it to the New York Times Company. Through the control and ownership of Class B (open voting rights for shareholders) voting shares, the family was able to retain and manage control over the paper. The ownership by the Ochs-Sulzberger family was so powerful that editor Turner Catledge went to great lengths to lessen the influence of the owners. Catledge was editor of the paper from 1952 to 1968, and often the owner, Arthur Sulzberger, would write suggestions for the paper to the editor. In order to avoid pressure to comply to these wishes, Catledge would remove the name from the letters from the owner before passing them along to his workers. This way, the decision to follow or ignore the suggestions from the owner would not be pressured by ownership signatures.
A report from the NYT was released on January 19, 2009 with information regarding a $250 million dollar loan from Carlos Slim, a Mexican telecommunications magnate, given to the NYT in order to help its success. Slim has 8.1 percent of Class A shares, and he is an advocate for the success and advancement of the paper. Stockholders are the main power behind the strength of companies, and the NYT seems to be doing well in the stock market.
The newspaper is divided into three distinct sections. The first of the three is the news. It includes national, international, business, science, health, technology. Sports, education, weather, obituaries, and other subsections. The second of the three main sections is the opinion, and this includes editorials and letters to the editor. The third section of the paper is the features section. This section includes arts, movies, theatre, travel, dining and wine, home and garden, fashion and style, crossword, The New York Times Book Review, and The New York Times Magazine. The Sunday Review is also included in the features section. In order to combat expenses and changing demands, the NYT announced in September of 2008 that certain sections on certain days of the paper would be combined. This began on October 6, 2008. The new method allows for four sections to be printed instead of more than four. The NYT clearly stated that the number of their staff and writers would not be affected by the change in the organization of the paper.
The NYT paper is a six-column paper, (a change from the eight-column paper that was used until 2007) contains 8.7 point Imperial text, uses Cheltenham typeface or headlines, and uses honorifics when referring to people. The six-column size saves the paper $12 million per year, and it forces editors and journalists to be more concise and hard-hitting with their writing. Editor Bill Keller and President Scott Heekin-Caned supported and advocated for the switch to six-column paper. Until 2009, it was tradition for the paper to include no advertisements on the first page. But, on January 6, 2009, the NYT placed a CBS ad across the entire width of the first page of the NYT.
The NYT has one 114 Pulitzer Prizes for journalism since its inception. It also has four Peabody Awards to its name. One of these four Peabody Awards was one by Jack Gould in 1956. A second of these Peabody Awards was awarded to the NYT for its “A Short History of the Highrise” in 2013. This is a part of a four-series documentary collection of life in highrise buildings.
In the growing technological world, it is understandable that newspapers like the NYT needed to switch to online journalism due to its rapid exposure to readers. Since 1996, the NYT has been online for this reason. In March of 2005, 555 million page views were attributed to the online website nytimes.com. The website is 59th in the ranks of attracting unique visitors, and it is the most popular newspapers site in the world. In May of 2009, 22 of the 50 most popular news blogs online were produced by the NYT.
Online subscription to the paper began in 2005 through a program called TimesSelect. The program ended two years later because it was financially more desirable to use ads on free sites than paying for subscriptions to ad-free, paid sites. Also, the NYT ran into the problem of paid subscribers sharing the written articles online so that others who haven’t subscribed can read them. All news from 1987 until present day is available online, and all news from 1851 to 1922 is in the public domain. Thomas Friedman, a columnist for the NYT, says that the TimesSelect program “pains him enormously because it’s cut him off from a lot, a lot of people, especially because he has a lot of people reading him overseas…he feels totally cut from his audience.”
The NYT became accessible to the iPhone and iPod in 2008, and it was accessible on the iPad in 2010. It opened up a video game for its readers entitled Food Import Folly, and it produced a blog for members of the East Village in New York as a means of communicating online between residents of the East Village. In addition to all of this online growth for the paper, a company called reCAPTCHA helped to digitize numerous old editions of the NYT.
In addition to online expansion, the NYT also now offers its news in Chinese and Portuguese.
Subscriptions or Advertisements?
Due to failing sales and profit, the NYT decided to begin charging readers to view more than 20 articles per month in 2011. This number was reduced to 10 articles per month in 2012.) temporary readers of the paper could log online and read their 20 articles a month, but heavy readers would have to subscribe. The price of the subscriptions ranged from $15 to $35. Front page news and Top News remained free of charge on the mobile app. Historically, profits were higher for advertisements in free papers than subscribers of paid papers, but in January 2013, Margaret Sullivan, who is the public editor of the NYT, announced that profits due to subscriptions had surpassed those of advertisement placements.
Application on Mobile Devices
Times Reader, a mobile app for accessing the news of the NYT, was created by the NYT and Microsoft. An updated version of the app was released after the first one had minor problems in functioning. Although reviews for the apps were mainly positive, the app was discontinued on January 6, 2014. Creators urged readers to use the “Today’s Paper” app to access their news instead.
40% of critics of the NYT claim that the paper is liberal, 11% think its conservative, and 20% believe it is non-partisan. A study by the University of California, Los Angeles gave the NYT a score of 63.5 on a scale of 0 being conservative and 100 being liberal. Daniel Okrent, a public editor of the NYT, wrote that the newspaper is naturally more liberal on social issues, and this is due to its upbringing in the cosmopolitan New York City. The last republican candidate supported by the NYT was Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.
Criticism of the NYT
The NYT has received its fair share of criticism since its inception. From lawsuits to riots to other newspapers and bloggers devaluing the NYT, it is clear that the paper as its critics. The Huffington Post claims that the NYT is unfair when profiling and writing about world leaders. Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti is favored by the NYT whereas Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is disliked by the NYT. Both of these leaders came from similar educational backgrounds, receiving PhDs in economics from American schools. The NYT was criticized during the Iraqi War for being factually inaccurate with their reports. Namely, reporter Judith Miller was criticized for her reports in the NYT from her source Ahmed Chalabi, who occupied many governmental positions after his return to the US from Iraq. The NYT did come out and say that they were too dependent upon information from Iraqi exiles as opposed to going into Iraq and capturing the truth themselves. Critics of the NYT say that the paper is pro-Israel and anti-Palestine along with anti-Sematic. As a paper that has established its mission of being even-handed and non-biased, these criticisms struck significantly with the image and respect of the paper. Even in the midst of all the criticisms, editors of the paper still maintain the neutral stance that the paper is supposed to have. Editor Clark Hoyt says the NYT has “tried its best to do a fair, balanced and complete job” when reporting on the Israel-Palestine conflicts. During World War II, the paper was criticized for repressing and refusing to report the truths of the Holocaust. Executive editor Max Frankel wrote about these accusations in the 150th anniversary edition of the paper on November 14, 2001. Reporter Walter Duranty won the Pulitzer Prize for his journalism in Moscow from 1922 to 1936 on the Soviet Union. Critics claim that Duranty left out mass evidence of famine in Ukraine from his report in the NYT. The NYT hired Mark von Hagen to review Duranty’s journalism, and Hagen found the writing to be Stalinist propaganda. He claimed that “For the sake of the New York Times’ honor, they should take [the Pulitzer Prize] away.” More plagiarism arose when Jayson Blair, a NYT reporter, was removed from the staff of the newspaper due to plagiarism charges against him. Interestingly, the NYT was reluctant to fire him (and quick to hire him) due to his racial minority status. In 2006, there were rape cases from Duke University going around in the news. The NYT received major criticism for its publishing of the prosecutor’s stories instead of the victim’s. Due to an advisement not to publish the National Security Agency warrantless surveillance program story by the Bush Administration, editor Bill Keller and journalists James Risen and Eric Lichtblau received major criticism. Much like the criticism received for publishing the Pentagon Papers, here the NYT received criticism for not publishing the NSA story before the presidential election. It seems to me that the NYT cannot catch a reasonable break.
The NYT database was hacked into once and only once on August 29, 2013 by the Syrian Electronic Army, which is affiliated with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This hacking shut down the NYT website servers for hours, and many records within the NYT database were altered.
2014 Innovation Report
In 2014, NYT staff writers conducted an internal, un-published innovation report. This report, among many other findings, found that the world class journalists of the NYT were having trouble getting the news to the readers. The NYT was struggling in the social media-dominated and online-central news world. An incomplete copy of the innovation report was acquired and published by Buzzfeed, and readers as well as critics of the paper were upset that the NYT chose to hide the innovation report from the public.
I think failure to publicize the innovation report represents a lack of qualitative leadership within the NYT. It is expected of a public company within the media to be public about their wellbeing, their future as a newspaper, and their plans to correct any shortcomings. I do not believe that the NYT purposely acted negligently and surreptitiously, but I do not think this is an excuse for their failure to be transparent with their audience. After all, the newspaper fights so hard for transparency within the news reporting (New York Times Company v. Sullivan), so why should the not be transparent about their own company news?
NYT: Here to Stay
The NYT is a global machine of news reporting, and it has established itself as a powerhouse in today’s news-driven society. It’s all about the buzz, the scoop, the story, and the headline. The NYT has been around since the 19th century, and I do not think they will be going anywhere anytime soon. With criticism against them, awards given to them, thousands of papers, crosswords and fashion columns, sports and politics, money and business, international and national groundbreaking news, the NYT is clearly here to stay. Its impact is significant, and I do believe that the NYT has tried as hard as it can within its context to remain true to its original purposes written out and documented in that very first publication of the paper back on September 18, 1851.