The prestige of the New York Times is such that it wields an unparalleled moral suasion. A few years ago, I wrote a Times editorial making the point that in flirting with succeeding her husband as president, Vicente Fox's wife was threatening to make a mockery of the nation's democratization. The Mexican press treated the editorial as news in itself, and Mrs. Fox backed down. (We were, to be sure, not the only ones making the point.) But from now on, any Times utterances on Mexico will now be interpreted, fairly or not, through the prism of Slim's stake in the company.
Such second-guessing will not be limited to news about Mexico. When the Times is tough on Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader can accuse the paper of doing its favorite investor's bidding. (Slim has businesses throughout Latin America.) And when the Times writes about extreme wealth concentration in other developing countries or unseemly business monopolies in Russia (or here in the United States, for that matter), second-guessers will ask why the paper of record doesn't take a closer look at what its white knight, Mr. Slim, is up to in Mexico.
The New York Times is facing difficult times, and it's easy to understand why it made this deal. But in the long run, in terms of the newspaper's global brand, that $250 million may appear far costlier than the high interest payments Slim is now due.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Hard to Refute
Andres Martinez makes a pretty convincing case against the wisdom of the New York Times selling a $250 million stake to Carlos Slim in Slate. The gist: