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Tim Cahill: The Hypocrisy of the New York Times

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

 

Tim Cahill, GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTER™

As I was thinking about the sordid tale of the New York Times Corporation sticking it to Massachusetts taxpayers for the environmental clean-up of its contaminated building in downtown Worcester, a clever television commercial for Liberty Mutual popped into my head.

In a number of short vignettes, people are shown doing simple, good deeds. The first has a woman missing her bus to help a stranger collect papers that have been blown all over the street while someone on the bus looks on. The second has that onlooker giving up his spot in line at a supermarket to a young mother and her child. The third shows an employee in an office cleaning up a spill on the floor as a co-worker sitting in the room observes.

The title to the commercial is "Doing the Right Thing and the Easy Thing are Rarely the Same," and the voice-over at the end says, "Responsibility...What's your policy?"  It is somewhat ironic that the commercial is for the same company that Boston Globe, whose parent company just happens to be the New York Times Corporation, has been raking over the coals lately for excessive executive compensation.  The theme for all of the attacks on Liberty Mutual's former CEO and current Chairman, Ted Kelly, centers around corporate responsibility.

It appears that the Globe has enjoyed  pointing out the irony to its readers of the insurance firm's public message against its private actions. I am not here to comment either way about the appropriateness of Kelly's $50 million in salary.  The issue is more for him, his board and Liberty Mutual's policy holders to decide. What I will comment on though is the silence from the Globe about the fact that its parent company has foisted this lemon of a building, and its environmental remediation onto both federal and state taxpayers.

Where is the newspapers' corporate responsibility to the public in shining a light on such a scam?   Knowing full well that no private buyer would ever purchase their building without doing a full-scale environmental review, they sold it to a well intentioned non-profit that took the Times at its word that they were getting the building for a bargain. At least Liberty Mutual, under the leadership of Ted Kelly, has seen its business grow ten-fold, kept its headquarters in downtown Boston, and become one of the states' largest employees.

Under the leadership of the New York Times Corporation, both the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, have lost money, laid off employees, and has sold its downtown Worcester building.  And to add salt to the wound, until GoLocalWorcester uncovered and reported on the deal with New Garden Park, the Times was prepared to saddle the taxpayers with the entire cost of the clean up of its former building.   How's that for corporate responsibility?

If Walmart, Exxon Mobil, or Pfizer had attempted to do anything like this I am sure that the Times, Globe, T&G and others would have had a field day with the story and taken each corporation, as they have in the past, to task for poor corporate responsibility.

The more I think about the Liberty Mutual ad with the woman staring at the coffee on the floor while blithely eating her yogurt and watching someone else clean up the mess, the more it reminds me of the NY Times Corporation.    

As we have seen here in Worcester over the past week, doing the right thing and the easy thing are rarely, if at all, the same. Maybe it's time that they are.

 

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