The NYT Tightens Its Belt, Adds Bono to the Masthead

Lots of New York Times news to discuss today! You may recall, way back in the early days of August before Sarah Palin was even a glimmer in John McCain’s eye, that we told you how the NYT Co. was under increases pressure to cut its dividends (simply put: “it has to stop paying its shareholders so much money and use some of its finite cash to pay off its bonds”). Bloomberg is now reporting the company is considering doing just that, or perhaps even dropping dividends altogether(!) after “reporting a loss on severance costs and a steeper drop in advertising sales.” Keep in mind that the NYT Co. has a $1.1 billion debt and pays the controlling Ochs-Sulzberger family a $25.1 million a year dividend. Time for some belt-tightening we thinks!

But that is not all, by a long shot. Because if you were the national paper of record, as well as (by far), the best example of how a newspaper should go about transitioning to the online world, and you found yourself struggling, what would you do? Hire a celebrity for your op-ed pages, of course!

Radaronline is reporting that the NYT has enlisted (for free) world saving rock star Bono to pen 10-12 columns next year for the paper (Bono will “muse on Africa, poverty, and, importantly, the music of Frank Sinatra”). Actually Rosenthal, who was apparently speaking to students at Columbia’s school of journalism when he mentioned his new recruit, was full of juicy op-ed tidbits: MoDo is “the easiest and most pleasant edit of any writer I’ve worked with in my life;” Condoleezza Rice is a “particularly bad op-ed writer,” and Tom Wolfe “tends to write very long.” Also, he likes The Atlantic‘s Megan McArdle and (Matt Taibbi nemesis) National Review‘s Byron York. As to the future of Sarah Palin groupie William Kristol, Rosenthal was mum.

All of these, of course, are just further attempts to keep the NYT from going the way of the dinosaur (though, like we said, we think the Times is about as far away from a dinosaur as you can get online). At the WebbyConnect conference yesterday chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger responded to whether he thought the Times print version would be around in 10 years (will the print version of anything be around in 10 years? Does it matter?):

The heart of the answer must be that we can’t care. We do care. I care very much, but we must be where people want us to be for their information…Print is going to be here, I believe, for a very long time…The thought is that we have to get past the thought that it has to be perfect…If you’re not prepared to occasionally fail, you’re not trying hard enough.

He also pointed out that “We now compete with companies that don’t even create content.” Ain’t that the truth!