Former BBC chief will have to cut costs as new boss of the 'Gray Lady'


It is just as well that Mark Thompson's biting days are behind him. American newspapers take a dimmer view of newsroom "high jinks" than the BBC did when its future director-general bit into a junior reporter's arm when he was running the Nine O'Clock News in the late Eighties. One can only imagine the disciplinary uproar that "man bites man" might cause at the stately New York Times, the beacon of liberal newsgathering in the US, which Mr Thompson is going to run.

The British executive has come far in the intervening years. But as he sets sail for the US, and his new challenges, it seems he may yet again have to bare his teeth. With revenues falling, The New York Times looks in need of the same brand of cost-cutting that Mr Thompson brought to the Beeb.

Mr Thompson was announced late on Tuesday as the new chief executive of The New York Times Company.

For watchers of the US newspaper scene, the appointment of a man steeped in news broadcasting, and with no print experience whatsoever, looks a leftfield appointment to run the 'Gray Lady'. Yet there are similarities between the BBC and The New York Times. Both have built up huge news operations while being assailed by outsiders for a perceived liberal bias. Both have a public service mission at their core. Both, in different ways, have been pioneers on the internet.And both are facing a harsh squeeze on their revenues. Mr Thompson will certainly have his work cut out.

Ed Atorino, analyst at Benchmark Company, who monitors shares in the New York Times Company, is not a fan of the appointment.

"He is British and he is not a print guy, he has not worked with the print community, and there are a lot of prima donna reporters at the Times, the cream of the crop. Will he speak their language? Can he have an immediate impact? Running The New York Times is a far cry from running the BBC."

Mr Thompson, who has worked in broadcasting mainly, is one of the few directors-general to have found another major media job on leaving the BBC.