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Oh, For Goodness' Sake: The New York Times Is Still Clarifying Its Stance on the Word "Tweet"

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It's apparently not enough that the New York Times pays a "standards editor" to decide that it's inappropriate for the paper's journalists to use the word "tweet" without giving this editor the power to enforce his decision.

To most business owners (e.g., NYTCo shareholders) that would seem like a classic example of bureaucratic fat -- the sort of indulgence that a self-respecting manager would immediately eliminate, especially at a company in as poor financial condition as the New York Times.

But that is not enough! Now, NYTCo is paying the same standards editor -- the probably quite charming Phil Corbett, who deserves no blame for merely doing the job he is being paid to do -- to write public essays clarifying and explaining his stance on the word "tweet" to NYT readers who, likely unanimously, found this stance ridiculous.

The good news, for savaged NYTCo shareholders, is that Phil's most recent proclamations on the word "tweet" -- which can presumably still be freely ignored by everyone at the company -- are now at least generating some page views, which NYTCo should be able to use to recoup some costs to the tune of about a penny a page.

If we assume that Phil was as diligent about developing his stance about the word "tweet" as he has been about articulating, refining, and clarifying it, we can assume that Phil has devoted about a week of 2010 employment to this particular issue. Assuming Phil makes about $125,000 a year, gets benefits, is accruing a pension, and sits at a desk high up in NYTCo's gorgeous Times' Square headquarters, we can assume that Phil's labors cost NYTCo's shareholders about $200,000 a year. Assuming Phil gets the requisite 4 weeks off that senior New York Times editors probably get, we can estimate that Phil costs NYTCo shareholders about $4,200 a week for the 48 weeks of the year that he actually works. And, thereby, we can estimate that Phil's ruminations about the word "tweet" have cost NYTCo shareholders approximately $4,200.

Was it worth it?

Well, if Phil actually had the power to enforce his ban of the word "tweet," a handful of shareholders might argue that this $4,200 expenditure was worth it, on account of the word "tweet" not having been yet deemed "standard English." But Phil, by his own admission, has explained that, as "standards editor," he doesn't have the power to tell anyone to do anything.

And, armed with THAT information, we suspect that even the purists among the New York Times shareholder base -- folks who have seen the value of their investment cut by 80% over the past five years--might regard the investment of this particular $4,200, as, say, fiddling while Rome burns.

(Unless, of course, Phil's public clarification on the web site generates 420,000 pageviews, in which case the company will have broken even. Here's keeping our fingers crossed Phil gets a Google News link...)

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