This morning at precisely 8:31 a.m., New York Times communications czar Robert Christie sent out an e-mail to reporters with the subject: "READ BEFORE WSJ PRESSER." It was in reference to a breakfast at the Plaza where Journal editor Robert Thomson introduced the paper's new "Greater New York" section, which debuted today. Unfortunately, the breakfast started at 8:30, and the document sent out by Christie was a sixteen-page PDF, so we didn't read it until after (sorry, Bob!). Its contents — some boasting about the Times' business, sports, style, arts, and local coverage and flattering numbers and descriptors about the Times' vaunted leadership, echoing the notices the paper has been issuing in ad trades — were largely no surprise, however. Christie, who until recently worked at the Journal, no doubt knew that the Plaza press conference would showcase a lot of statistics indicating the Journal's dominance over the Times. And it did.
Earlier in the morning, Christie had forwarded on another memo — this time a punchy internal one from Times chairman Arthur Sulzberger and CEO Janet Robinson. We had time to read this before breakfast, and were surprised by the feisty tone, which is unusual for their semi-regular "On the Record" memos:
Vol. 4 2010: A New Competitor Arrives
Some folks just have a different learning curve.
After 120 years of existence, The Wall Street Journal this morning has finally decided to cover New York north of Wall Street. In the spirit of journalistic camaraderie, we welcome the Journal’s new local section. The New York Times has been the paper of record in New York for nearly 160 years, and we know just how difficult it can be for start-ups to develop a following.
While there will be much sound and fury to this new endeavor, we thought we would take this opportunity to remind everyone about our position of strength in the New York marketplace. We will include a series of numbers that, to borrow a phrase often misused, are “fair and balanced.”
[Lengthy list of positive numbers for the Times, similar to the ones sent in the later PDF, edited out here for boringness.]
The Wall Street Journal already knows our readers and advertisers are very loyal to The New York Times and it will soon discover the intensity of that dedication, as The Times is a great newspaper, a great Web site and a great advertising vehicle.
So as our welcome gift to New York, we pass on a few helpful hints to our Journal colleagues: the Dodgers now play in Los Angeles, Soho is the acronym for South of Houston, Fashion Week has moved to Lincoln Center, Idlewild is now JFK and Cats is no longer playing on Broadway.
If you happen to know anyone who works for the Journal’s new section and he or she wants any additional information about the greater New York region, tell them to check out NYTimes.com’s always very helpful archive.
Arthur and Janet
Yay! Bitchy! Is that for the whole weak-chin thing? This put us in the perfect frame of mind to hear the Journal's top brass deliver veiled jabs at the Times in dulcet, overeducated tones over parfaits and lox. "If newspapers allow opinion into their news columns, what separates them from the blather of the blogs?" asked Robert Thomson rhetorically, going on to criticize the "moribund media" elite in general for having "all the ossification of the traditional bourgeois." (We waved a waiter over for an immediate coffee refresher after that one.) When asked directly about the competition with the Times, Thomson noted that in the age of the Internet and mobile digital devices, "the whole idea of a 'second paper' is somewhat anachronistic." Because we live in a city that thrives on competition, he added, "it's appropriate that there be a competition" between the papers, "and a little of that argy bargy that comes with competition."
We think that about wraps this morning up perfectly. A bunch of self-promoting sound bites delivered by high-powered media executives going after each other with pomp and vigor, all adding up to what really, in the end, is best described with a sound made by the Swedish Chef.