Fever Dream: What If The New York Times *Was* For Sale?

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner

The New York Times is not for sale. But given how topsy-turvey the world these days, let’s imagine it was for sale. There are some key issues that are difficult to imagine.

How much is it worth?
For perspective, The New York Times Company bought The Boston Globe for $1 billion about 20-so years ago. It was later sold for far less than that. But the NYT is probably the biggest, most powerful newspaper in the world in cultural terms. So, the starting bid for the paper would likely be at least $1 billion. And that’s on the conservative side. If it was for sale there would be so extremely powerful and wealthy people ready to pounce on it. The bidding war would likely increase the sale price to something closer to $5 billion.

Who would buy it?
News Corp probably is the one company willing to shell out the most money for it. But the instant Murdoch’s grubby conservative hands were on it, all the liberal marque names of the paper would bolt. They would likely start up a rival website that would essentially The New York Times in reconstituted form. That, in a sense, would make make Murdoch owning it kind of a moot point. All he would have is the brand name at that point and, while powerful, it’s not like he was going to convert the audience of the paper into psycho Right wingers.

So, let’s say News Corp doesn’t buy it. Then who? There are so many wealthy people who would see owning The Gray Lady as the vanity purchase of a lifetime that it’s difficult to think of all of them. My guess is either Alphabet Corp (Google) would buy it or Facebook’s Zuckerberg would buy it personally like Jeff Bezos did The Washington Post. Then there’s Laurene Powell (Steve Jobs’ window.) She has the cash and the interest (see her investment in The Atlantic.) The list goes on.

What Would They Do With It?
The traditional print newspaper business is dying off. It’s just a matter of time. If Alphabet Corp bought the NYT, they would probably integrate it directly into their search. That would, in a sense, be the best case scenario.

Anyway. This isn’t going to happen anytime soon — or ever.

The Low Key, Systemic Crisis At The New York Times

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner

It’s interesting how great The New York Times is on a tactical level and how bad it is on a strategic level. Be it the lead up to the Iraq War or normalizing Trump’s authoritarian inclinations, The Gray Lady collectively seems to need to go to therapy.

Now, I’m of the opinion this stems from the paper trying to play it completely down the middle in a time when to do so is a grave disservice to its audience. The paper as a whole wants to be completely objective. Unfortunately, we, as a nation, are in a chronic existential crisis. And, yet, I honestly don’t see any ready solution to the problem.

It’s not like The Paper Of Record can adopt advocacy journalism. So, I think we’re stuck with this particular problem long term.

Having said all that, I think it’s interesting to imagine a day when Rupert Murdoch finally got his life-long wish to own The New York Times. The crazy thing about such a thing is it’s not like people would go along with him turning it into a clone of FOX News. What would happen is all the brand-name liberal reporters would bounce. It would be the journalistic equivalent of the fall of Constantinople. A lot of other medium-sized newspapers would be flooded with some pretty spectator talent.

Or, they would band together to start a new newspaper that was The New York Times in all but name. It’s amusing how conservatives think if only they own The New York Times, they would make it’s generally liberal audience tag along.

The Odd Frequency Of My Encounters With The NYT & Writing A Novel

by Shelton Bumgarner

The preview for this is not indicative of the actual video quality.

Idle Rambling On Why It Might Be Mike Pence Who Wrote The NYT Op-Ed

by Shelton Bumgarner

Let me be clear — I don’t think it was Mike Pence who wrote the NYT’s op-ed released today. There are any number of reasons why this is the case, one of them being the actual document itself says the person wanted anonymity because they might lose their job. Who is the only person the president can’t fire in his cabinet?

Mike Pence.

Having said that, lets wander through tinfoil hat town and break down why it MIGHT be Pence.

1. The Mid-Terms Are Fast Approaching
Pence is the only person who might want to hurry things up a little bit with Trump and attempt to bring things to a head before November. What better way to do that than to slice the boil just as the political silly season is heating up? What’s the best way to get Trump to quit before November, making you president?

Write an op-ed in the NYT that you know will eventually, inevitably lead to you.

Because we know we’re going to find out who wrote it sooner rather than later.

2. “Loadstar”
The use of this otherwise rarely used word is either a really dumb mistake by someone who writes for a living, or the mistake of politician who isn’t thinking that clearly about how to hide their tracks. That’s why I think it’s more likely to be someone like Pence than, say, a high level staffer such as a speech writer.

3. Pence Would Become President
This would be pretty extraordinary. If Pence wrote the op-ed knowing damn well he would be outed nearly immediately, then this would be a Constitutional Crisis of the highest order. Of all thing things that might force Trump from power before the 2018 mid-terms, this would be it. Pence has been a water carrier for Trump since his selection and for him to turn on Trump in such a manner would shake the nation to its core. I have read the piece in Pence’s voice in my head and it definitely fits his speaking cadence at times. But at other times, it doesn’t.

Having said all that, the only person I can think of of note besides Pence would bet Mattis. If Mattis wrote the piece, then, that, too, would be of historical significance. Anyone else on the Trump team simply doesn’t have the respect and gravitas necessary to strike a mortal political blow to Trump

‘My Old Gray Lady’ — #Lyrics To A Ballad About The New York Times

Just feel inspired. This would be a slow pop song like “New York I love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down.” No one cares about anything I do, so no harm no foul, right?

My Old Gray Lady
lyrics by Shelton Bumgarner
please give credit if you produce or perform

no one listen to me
thought my old gray lady was different
for a moment at most
but soon enough I gave up the ghost
my old gray lady
has color at last
she’s no longer mine
even if she gives me some her time

no one listens to me
for a moment I did sing
my old gray lady
she thought I was the best
then just a pest
what she knows she won’t say
just wants me to go away

my old gray lady
she’s here to say
my old gray lady
that you leave with with dismay

no listens to me
what can I say but it’s ok
when we’re ready to bounce
maybe we’ll just feel like louts
then it’s all over don’t you know
’cause life kind of blows

no listens to me
just listen to me wine
but we know everything will be just fine
there’s nothing you can do
if you try you’re just rude

my old gray lady
she’s here to say
my old gray lady
that you leave with with dismay

it’s nothing at all
thought I had the gall
to break the case
but it’s just a disgrace

no listens to me
it’s obvious to thee
that’s the story is true
things can’t get much worse
it’s like it never happened
what are you thinking
go climb a tree

Guvf vf whfg fcrphyngvba, ohg vf vg cbffvoyr Furen Orpuneq arire unq gur nobegvba naq jung rirelbar’f yrneavat vf fur’f tbvat gb unir n xvq naq gurl jnag gb cebgrpg vg? Gung vg’f Oebvql’f naq fur whfg jnagf ure cevinpl?

Fgvyy qbrfa’g rkcynva gur $1.6 zvyyvba cnl bss. Pbura vf nobhg npprff, cher naq fvzcyr. Oebvql unf ab ernfba gb hfr Pbura fvzcyl gb pheel snibe vs gurer’f ab npprff vaibyirq. Oebvql zhfg unir xabja cyragl dhnyvsvrq AQN ynjlref va YN gung ur pbhyq gehfg. Pbura vf n svkre sbe Qbanyq W. Gehzc, abobql ryfr.

Bgure guvatf.

Bapr lbh pnyy ohyyfuvg ba ure pnfhnyyl orvat ersreerq Xrvgu Qnivqfba gura jung ryfr vf fur ylvat nobhg?

Orpuneq vf na npgerff. Crgre X. Fgevf vf ab qhzzl. Ur pbhyq pbnpu ure gb gryy nalbar jub nfxrq rabhtu gb znxr gurz oryvrir gur pbire fgbel.

Ohg ab bar unf rkcynvarq gung $1.6 zvyyvba gb zr. Lbh pna’g. Gung $1.6 zvyyvba cbcf bhg naq fvzcyl gryyvat zr V’z jebat naq gb fuhg hc qbrfa’g phg vg.

‘Trust Us’ — #Lyrics To A Pop Song About The New York Times

Just felt inspired. Seems like The New York Times deserves some lyrics that will never be produced.

Trust Us
lyrics by Shelton Bumgarner
please give credit if you produce or perform

we got your answers
trust us
don’t you fret
we know the truth
trust us
everything is set
just you ignore what you feel
trust us

there’s nothing more to say
forget about this with no delay
we’re always here for you
listening to your concerns
but when push comes to shove
here’s the rub

trust us
trust us
trust us

we’ve got the record
print it every day
we know things you don’t
things that would leave you dismayed
the facts are our thing
we wear it like bling

there all this noise
you think you’ve got it figured out
but trust us
you don’t
we’re all over the place
with our power our grace
just shut up

trust us
trust us
trust us

when it’s all done
and you’re dead
we won’t even mark it
with an asterisk

don’t think any more of it
walk it off
’cause things are just as they seem
at least we’ve decided it’s so
don’t you know

trust us
trust us
trust us

Guvf vf whfg fcrphyngvba, ohg vf vg cbffvoyr Furen Orpuneq arire unq gur nobegvba naq jung rirelbar’f yrneavat vf fur’f tbvat gb unir n xvq naq gurl jnag gb cebgrpg vg? Gung vg’f Oebvql’f naq fur whfg jnagf ure cevinpl?

Fgvyy qbrfa’g rkcynva gur $1.6 zvyyvba cnl bss. Pbura vf nobhg npprff, cher naq fvzcyr. Oebvql unf ab ernfba gb hfr Pbura fvzcyl gb pheel snibe vs gurer’f ab npprff vaibyirq. Oebvql zhfg unir xabja cyragl dhnyvsvrq AQN ynjlref va YN gung ur pbhyq gehfg. Pbura vf n svkre sbe Qbanyq W. Gehzc, abobql ryfr.

Bgure guvatf.

Bapr lbh pnyy ohyyfuvg ba ure pnfhnyyl orvat ersreerq Xrvgu Qnivqfba gura jung ryfr vf fur ylvat nobhg?

Orpuneq vf na npgerff. Crgre X. Fgevf vf ab qhzzl. Ur pbhyq pbnpu ure gb gryy nalbar jub nfxrq rabhtu gb znxr gurz oryvrir gur pbire fgbel.

Ohg ab bar unf rkcynvarq gung $1.6 zvyyvba gb zr. Lbh pna’g. Gung $1.6 zvyyvba cbcf bhg naq fvzcyl gryyvat zr V’z jebat naq gb fuhg hc qbrfa’g phg vg.

My Bonkers Connections To The New York Times

by Shelton Bumgarner

At several points in my life, I’ve had run ins with the fine people of The New York Times. While growing up it was The Washington Post that I read the most while I was in college, as I’ve grown older it’s The Times that have come to see as the best newspaper in the world.

I say that knowing full well that The Gray Lady ain’t perfect. From a strategic standpoint, it has its problems and occasionally it screws up on a monumental, existential level. It’s coverage of the lead up to the Iraqi War and — gulp — the 2016 Presidential Campaign being two glowing examples.

Anyway, when I was in South Korea, I ran into The Times on two different occasions. The first was completely bonkers. I connived my way into the World Newspaper Congress (I think that’s its name) in 2004 and met the paper’s publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. I acted like a bobby socker when I met him, leaving him startled to say the least. It was a unique experience for both of us and though I don’t have a picture of it, I do cherish the fact that I got to meet him at all.

Meanwhile, for a very dumb reason I met Jennifer 8. Lee. It’s all very dumb, very, very dumb. But it did produce an article in ROKon Magazine you might like.

ROKing Sinchon with Jenny 8

Jennifer 8. Lee likes food.

A lot.

Recently, I hung out with the New York Times reporter and her friend Tomoko Hosaka of the Wall Street Journal here in Seoul.

The plan was for her to go to a jimjilbang with Annie Shapiro and ms. tiff, but that didn’t work out. Tomoko wanted to go to eat “Korean barbeque” and since Annie and Tiff are veggies, they were left out. This story was supposed to be about Annie and Tiff taking Jenny to a jimjilbang and getting all nekkid – now that would have been funny – but there are no happy endings in Korea so you get this write-up instead. I took a picture of the two ladies at the restaurant, but they wouldn’t let me use it. I generally think taking pictures of yourself with famous people is kind of lame, so you, gentle reader, will just have to settle for a picture of the fortune cookie I was given. If Annie and Tiff had done the story, maybe the situation would be different.

On the way to the subway, Jenny kept stopping to eat stuff from street vendors. I had to DJ that Friday night and we had to go all the way across town, so I was starting to stress out a little bit.
Again and again, she would ask me what this or that food was offered at street vendors as we headed towards the subway station. I had no clue. “I eat because I have to, not because I want to,” I told her finally. What else could I say? I

The fact that I met her is a testament not only to this wacky Internet age that we live in, but how being an expatriate in a place like Korea has its quirky advantages.

I met Jenny ’cause I, well, picked on her middle name online. When I first came to Korea I had way too much drunken spare time on my hands, so I often found myself in bouts of soju-fueled writing binges.

“I can not stress enough how odd it is that Jennifer Lee uses an ‘8’ for her middle name. It’s just totally unheard of. It’s like one of the
columns of Western civilization has suddenly become just a little unstable,” I once wrote. “I don’t care that her name really is ‘Jennifer 8. Lee.’ In
years gone by, an editor would have taken one look at it, eyed the flask of Jack Daniels in his desk drawer then said, ‘Look, kid, I don’t care how
lucky the damn number is, you’re going by ‘Jennifer Lee’ from now on.'”

Her middle name is a lucky number in Chinese culture. How exactly she was able to keep it in her byline eludes me. The fact that she graduated from Harvard University may have something to do with it.

When this actual famous reporter out of the blue contacted me, it both made me very happy and very nervous. She contacted me because she had read some of the shit I had written about her online and she needed some help finding Chinese restaurants in Korea. She’s on sabbatical from the Times to write a book on, like, the best Chinese restaurants in the world or some such. The first time she contacted me, I suddenly felt kinda bad about all the pointless mental masturbation I expended on her.

It’s funny how you can talk shit about a famous person online, but when you actually meet them you treat them like you would anyone else. While she’s no Maureen Dowd, in some media circles, Jennifer 8. Lee is, in fact, “famous” or “notorious.” For people who read Gawker.com, Jenny is shorthand for a reporter who writes seemingly pointless trend stories about things like “man dates.” She had the odd habit of using the phrase, “people of my generation” in a very authoritative tone, like she literally was speaking for everyone her age. “Jenny, you’re younger than I am,” I said teasingly at least once over galbi.

She actually has a rather bubbly, cute personality. My lone meeting with her did leave some1thing of a mystery in my mind — how is it that someone who, in the words of one article “causes $148,000 in damage to her Washington condo” actually be quite nerdy? What the heck does she do? She is obviously an extremely smart woman and from the little mischievous glint in her eye I can see how she probably loves to host a great party. But like all the great reporters I’ve known, she didn’t seem like much of a extrovert. She was quiet and curious about everything.

I picked her up at the Ritz Carlton. When I met her, she handed me a fortune cookie, while I handed her a copy of ROKon. “Fortune cookies are actually originally from Japan, not China,” Jenny said. It was a huge fortune cookie. It looked like a piece of found art. “I’ll either eat it when I’m drunk or crush it when I’m drunk,” I quipped.
I took the women to Sinchon to my favorite Korean restaurant. I go there so much that I’m like a part of the family. Tomoko seemed a bit uneasy hanging out with little old me, while Jenny was a good sport. I wanted to get Tomoko drunk to loosen her up a bit, but she had an early morning date with the DMZ.

At one point, I felt kinda bad for Tomoko. She’s a fairly important journalist in her own right, and all I did was talk to Jenny.

“I know you went to Harvard, Jenny,” I said invoking the “H-bomb” without meaning to, “But where did you go, Tomoko?”

“Northwestern,” she said with just a touch forlornly.

We talked a long time. I talked up ROKon, while the ladies were more interested in the food than anything I had to say. They’re an intense bunch, those two. I told them about knowing another Wall Street Journal reporter, Lina, but neither of them knew her. They were perplexed that they didn’t know her ’cause she has some connection to the Washington Post. Jenny acted like if there was an Asian who worked in any capacity at the Post, she would know her.

I had of vision of taking Jenny to Nori People and being able to see her shake what her momma gave her to my musical selections, but it was not to be. Jenny couldn’t stay. I did take Tomoko and Jenny there just to show it to her. “Oh, this is fun,” she said. You have to give those New York Times reporters credit, they are an observant bunch.

They left a lot sooner than I’d liked. As I said, I had all these grand plans to show them what a fun time we ROKon staffers were. Jenny promised to show me around New York City if I ever happened to end up there. The more I look at that fortune cookie, though, the more it looks like something that rhymes with “Mulva.”

ROKon Magazine Editor

Use Case: The New York Times & A Social Media Platform Based On Usenet Concepts

by Shelton Bumgarner

I’m bored, so here’s another use case for my social media platform concept that is just my personal daydream. Imagine there’s some breaking news about the Trump Administration. The New York Times writes a story about it and if my concept were real, they could shoot the entire story into the platform.

Here’s where the cool stuff happens. The game changing stuff.

See, not only could they keep the formatting and advertising of the original article, but users would be able to inline edit the content (in other words quote the article directly and write within it) in such a way that people would be engaging with both the content and the advertising in manner that could be profitable for both The New York Times and the service that enabled the whole thing to begin with.

I would say, at least from a content producer’s standpoint, that’s the most compelling use case of this proposed service. It’s really cool. It’s a completely different way of using content. Too bad no one listens to me and this just me daydreaming in a public manner.

The New York Times, Laurene Powell Jobs & The Media Buy Of The Century

by Shelton Bumgarner

Such is the power and influence of The New York Times that even the hint, the suggestion that it might be for sale — or that someone might be interested in buying it — gets tongues wagging. The latest extremely wealthy person to idly muse about buying The Gray Lady is Laurence Powell Jobs. She was asked at at a trade conference if she would buy The New York Times and she asked, “Is it for sale?”

The answer, of course, is no.

The family of current owner Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. sees the newspaper as a family trust and they ain’t going no where anytime soon.

But given that we’re talking about this relatively taboo media subject at all, let’s talk abut this a little bit. A few years ago, it was Google that everyone collectively decided should buy The New York Times. It just seemed to make too much sense.

That was just a passing fancy and things moved on.

Then in 2009, something really weird happen. A relatively unknown — at least in the States — Mexican investor named Carlos Slim bought a big chunk of the paper, seemingly out of the blue. Again, people started mulling what would happen if someone bought paper.

Remember, much, if not all of the actual reporting we have come to enjoy about Trumplandia has come from newspapers. The New York Times and The Washington Post are engaged in a bloody newspaper battle to see who can bring down the Trump Administration. Whoever owns The New York Times would truly own the crown jewel of the American newspaper industry.

There has been talk off and on that maybe billionaire Mike Bloomberg might buy the paper as well. But given the weird way the paper’s stock is setup, the Sulzberger family has pretty much absolute control over the fate of the paper.

And, yet, The New York Times, in real terms, is pretty small in a era of ever growing media conglomerates. It doesn’t take a lot to imagine there might come a point where the Sulzberger might out of sheer desperation feel they had no choice but to throw in the towel.

The newspaper industry is undergoing historic contraction because of the Internet and while the digital side of The New York Times continues to grow, it simply can’t at this point make up for the epic contraction the paper is feeling on the print side. Though, as I understand it, due to Trumplandia, even the print side is getting something of an uptake.

So who might buy The New York Times will continue to be the subject of parlor room debate. It’s very possible that the Sulzberger family will hold on to it for the rest of the century and beyond. But should the Sulzberger family lose grip of The Gray Lady, it would leave the media world in shock and awe.

As an aside, I actually met Mr. Sulzberger once. I was in Seoul and there was this big newspaper conference. I was able to use my then membership to The Society of Professional Journalists to wiggle my way in. Mr. Sulzberger seemed a bit bemused at how giddy I was to meet him. I was like a bobbysoxer. I rarely am starstruck, but this time I was.

It was pretty cool.