Thompson starts as NY Times CEO amid BBC scandal

Associated Press Modified: November 12, 2012 at 7:46 pm •  Published: November 12, 2012
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Thompson is the first foreigner to run the Times since its founding in 1851.

He faces big challenges at the Times. Its union votes on a new contract this week after prolonged negotiations. And despite sitting on $1 billion in cash following the sale of About.com in September, its core business eroded in the last quarter. Its net profit from July through September fell 85 percent to $2.3 million, even as the number of digital subscribers increased. Investors are calling for a dividend even as print advertising revenue spirals downward.

Stopped on the sidewalk on his way into the Times' Manhattan headquarters early Monday, Thompson was asked by a reporter from Britain's ITV News about the latest BBC development — the resignation of his successor, Entwistle.

Thompson said that he was "saddened by recent events at the BBC," but that it had no bearing on his new job.

"I believe that it will not in any way affect my job," he said.

The Times' own journalists have criticized its coverage of the BBC scandal, but it has published multiple stories about it.

Times columnist Joe Nocera asked in an Oct. 29 piece whether Thompson is "the right man for the job" and noted the ongoing investigation of Savile may distract him as the newspaper company's CEO.

"Since early October, all anybody has asked about Thompson are those two most damning of questions: what did he know, and when did he know it?" Nocera wrote.

The newspaper's public editor, Margaret Sullivan, had called on the company to pursue the story relentlessly, before she concluded in a blog post on Monday that "The Times has pulled no punches in reporting."

But as the BBC scandal has widened, media watchers such as news industry analyst Ken Doctor said Thompson should step aside "for the good of the Times."

Doctor, an analyst with Outsell, a global research and advisory firm, said there are "lingering questions about the extent that Thompson knew about the allegations."

"It's a major distraction for The New York Times, when The New York Times is in a huge transition mode for itself," Doctor said.

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Nakashima reported from Los Angeles. AP Business Writer Tom Murphy in Indianapolis and AP Writer Cassandra Vinograd in London contributed to this story.