Ira Stoll chuckles as he finishes posting to Smartertimes.com -- his Website dedicated to exposing what he considers to be errors, mischaracterizations, and outright untruths in the New York Times. It's only 9 a.m., and the phone won't stop ringing. For the past nineteen months, Stoll has been best known as a rather obsessive Internet gadfly, a Drudge with only one target. But now he's got a newspaper of his own to run, and résumés litter his tiny Brooklyn apartment. "An economic downturn might not be the best time to start a new paper," Stoll admits. "But it is a great time to hire talent."
The paper, backed by Canadian media baron Conrad Black and other investors, will reportedly be called the Sun, with an estimated circulation of 6,000 to 10,000 and a conservative outlook. So far, no one involved with the project is saying much, except that it'll be a weekday broadsheet focused on New York, launching this spring. Stoll will be part owner and managing editor. "Ira is the key," says editor-in-chief Seth Lipsky. "He is going to run the news department; he's going to write, edit, hire, design, set policy."
Before he started Smartertimes.com, Stoll, 29, was the managing editor of The Forward, a Jewish weekly edited by Lipsky, who resigned in 2000, under fire for his conservative views. (Stoll quit the same day.) According to colleagues, he is an aggressive reporter and editor. "A master story-idea guy," says Julian E. Barnes, a writer at U.S. News and World Report. But -- as befits someone who has scolded the Times for referring to an "anti-Taliban commander" as a " 'warlord,' a word that is laden with negative connotations" -- he also has a reputation for being a prickly boss. Beth Pinsker, a former Forward freelancer, says that she always got on with Stoll but that he was tough, especially on younger writers. "He has that grumpy-old-man attitude to editing -- like you'd find in a paper in the thirties."
At the Sun, he'll continue keeping tabs on the Times, taking the Gray Lady to task for, say, how its "nearly slavish devotion to the Communist dictatorship on Cuba can descend to the point of self-parody." Though many at the Times dismiss his site -- "Oh, that bitchy little thing?" snorts one insider -- others insist that quite a few editors subscribe to it. And how would Stoll feel if someone started Smartersun.com? "I'd be thrilled."