New York Times publisher Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger Jr has suddenly become the moose in the room that everybody now wants to talk about, including his disgruntled staffers...and Taiwanese animators who have produced an hilarious video about his bizarre management style (below the fold). The Taiwanese parody is based on a recent email sent by Times science and health reporter Don McNeil to about 150 fellow staffers.
Reading McNeil's explosive email, one gets the impression that Sulzberger's primary qualification to helm the Times was to live through birth:
The Times is in labor turmoil. Journalists are openly angry. Even the sacred Page One meeting has had a protest.
The company has no C.E.O.
Arthur has cancelled his annual State of the Times address.
He didn't even speak at Anthony Shadid's memorial. Jill "greeted us in his name" as he sat there.
Ouch! Tell us what you really think, Don. And he does. He does.
So where is Arthur these days?
At the small dinners he is having with staff, he offered an answer: He has found a new management guru, Michael Useem. And he is going trekking with Mr. Useem in the Himalayas soon.
And the guru is only the latest in a series of strange management consultants although from their descriptions they could also easily be labeled as pricey BS artists:
Quick history lesson: over the last 20 years, Arthur has adopted a series of management consultants. First there was W. Edwards Deming, who led workshops having NYT staffers form "quality circles." Then there was one whose name I forgot who had us all post plastic-coated cards with "The Rules of the Road" on our desks...... Then there was Jim Clemmer and his "Put the Moose on the Table" philosophy that led Arthur to bring the infamous stuffed moose to the town meeting that finished off Howell Raines.
Yes, that was the "moose in the room" that nobody supposedly wants to talk about as reported several years ago by the New York Daily News during the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal:
The moose is loose On the empty stage, Sulzberger, Raines and Boyd sat side by side. They got no applause and no catcalls, though some audience comments were cheered. In a surreal moment that reminded one staffer of Shari Lewis' old TV show, Sulzberger produced a stuffed toy moose that he sometimes trots out as a symbol of open communication. Its use struck some in the audience as a tone-deaf and patronizing gesture. Sulzberger handed the moose to Raines, who laid it aside.
Now that you're up to speed on Pinch's moose which features prominently in the Taiwanese parody, we come to McNeil's blistering conclusion about the Boss:
Enter guru No. 4.
A Nepal trek is very Arthur, since he's a rock climber and Outward Bound tripper.
But to learn leadership? Shouldn't a 60-year-old corporate chairman already know whether he's a leader or not? Shouldn't that have been decided by age 35 or so?
And a trek now? In mid-crisis?
We put out a great newspaper every day. But outside the newsroom, at the corporate level, we're sailing on a ghost ship.
Oh, and that Times ghost ship is also featured in the video. Watch, laugh, enjoy!