21st-Century Journalism VIII: The New York ObserverOwnership of the 50,000-circulation New York Observer changed hands on July 30. Jared Kushner, a 25-year-old with family and business money to spend, is the new majority owner of this privately held enterprise.
Peter W. Kaplan, The Observer's editor, says the chemistry with Kushner is good so far, and that he believes Kushner's promise not to interfere with the paper's editorial process.
One of the most interesting aspects of the story for me is what Kaplan had to say about the prospect of working for a publisher considerably younger than he. "The way the world is working, I find that I have as much to learn from 25-year-olds as they do from me. I have no vanity about that. He exists in the world that is about to be, and that seems worth trading for my information about the world as it has been."
Bosses younger than employees they supervise are increasingly common.Thus there is a growing need for people to know how to handle this reversal of the customary relationship of the generations. Well-designed training can be a powerful aid in promoting healthy working relations in which the young and the not-so-young share what they know in constructive fashion.
Kaplan also talks about how Kushner represents the 21st century in the newspaper industry: "In that sense, his 25-ness is a huge asset. He is not weighed down by the debris of conventional wisdom."
Indeed, Kushner says his overall aim is to improve the Observer's financial performance. To achieve this goal, he plans to pursue three objectives:
- Marketing the paper's brand.
- Building Internet traffic.
- Providing resources for more news beats so the paper can be stronger, "with more constituencies and more advertising" (Kaplan's words).