The New York Times roll-your-own tradition has continued with the recent coming-out party of A.G. Sulzberger, the latest entrant in the family business.
From the start his sinecure propelled the Nepotism Patrol into DEFCON 4 – but not so fast wrote then-Slate media critic Jack Schafer last year:
You won’t catch me snarking about the promotion of A.G. Sulzberger from a reporter slot on the New York Times‘ metro staff, where he’s been laboring for a year, to chief of the paper’s reopening Kansas City bureau.
Yes, it’s obvious that A.G.’s upgrade has more to do with who his father is—New York Times Co. Chairman of the Board Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.—than with his journalistic skills. So when Columbia Journalism Review‘s Ryan Chittum tweeted “publisher’s kid becomes a buro chief? after a year?” this afternoon, I appreciated his nepotism complaint. It’s just not right that a 29-year-old reporter with one year of experience with the Times, a couple of years at the Oregonian, and couple more at the Providence Journal should be running a Times bureau unless he has greatness written all over him. Which he doesn’t, if this dump of his Times pieces is any gauge.
But meritocracy doesn’t always deliver the goods. A fine case can be made for rapid promotion of a family member in a family-controlled company if 1) the company’s values are laudable and 2) the company has historically tapped its values directly from the family, which has been true of the New York Times Co. since paterfamilias Adolph S. Ochs purchased the Times in 1896.
Not to mention Sulzberger the Younger has produced some reasonably good work recently.
Exhibit A: His front-page piece in Tuesday’s Times headlined “In Small Towns, Gossip Moves to the Web, and Turns Vicious.”
Coincidentally, Schafer concluded his Slate piece last year with this admonition:
[D]on’t pass judgment on A.G. Sulzberger until you read the Boston Phoenix‘s 2006 profile of him.
Good call, Jack.