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Real Talk: In Which We Wash Our Hands of This New York Sun Story

nysun09.30.081.jpgFifty-nine percent of you don’t care that today is the last day of publication for New York Sun. Good for you. Given the other events of yesterday, we can see how there were other things on your mind.

And yet, editor Seth Lipsky wrote a heartfelt goodbye appearing in today’s paper, so we felt compelled to bring it to you. In it, he highlights the fact that advertising revenues “were up more than 60 percent over the year earlier month and ahead of the budget goals, with year-to-date advertising revenues up nearly 25 percent” and that “even at the end [our backers] were offering millions of dollars if we could find the partners we needed.”

Lipsky, managing editor Ira Stoll and everyone else fought to the bitter end, but unfortunately the Sun won’t rise tomorrow morning.

Lipsky’s full letter after the jump.


It is my duty to report today that Ira Stoll and I and our partners have concluded that the Sun will cease publication. Our last number will be the issue dated September 30, the first day of Rosh Hashanah. I want you to know that Ira and I, and our partners, explored every possible way to avoid having to cease publication.

We have spoken with every individual who seemed to be a prospective partner, and everywhere we were received with courtesy and respect. I tend to be an optimist and held out hope for a favorable outcome as late as mid-afternoon today. But among other problems that we faced was the fact that this month, not to mention this week, has been one of the worst in a century in which to be trying to raise capital, and in the end we were out not only of money but time.

So we are at this sad moment. It is sad for any newspaper to go out of publication, and it is particularly sad for one that is as loved as much as all of us here love The New York Sun and the readers we have won in our six-and-a-half years of publication. But I want you to know that the decision to close the paper has not been an acrimonious one. It is a logical decision following a hard-headed assessment of our chances of meeting our goal of profitable publication in the near future.

This was always a risk, and all the greater is the heroism of our financial backers. Even at the end they were offering millions of dollars if we could find the partners we needed. I don’t mind saying to you, as I have to them, that I very much regret — I will always regret — that we were not able to return to them the capital that they invested in us. Yet we have not heard a single regret from any of them on this head, which underscores the fact that it was not only for the possibility of profit that they invested in this newspaper. They invested also for other ideals, as well.

They invested in the ideal of the scoop, the notion that news is the spirit of democracy, and in the principles for which we have stood in our editorial pages — limited and honest government, equality under our Constitution and the law, free markets, sound money, and a strong foreign policy in support of freedom and democracy. They liked the way the Sun reflected the dynamism of our city and spoke for its interests in the national debate.

They invested, too, in the joy with which you illuminated the cultural life of New York, in our willingness to spring to the defense of so many who are not always defended, in the thrill of our sports coverage, the verve and warmth of our society coverage, and in our efforts to bring together a community and give it voice.

Our backers asked me to tell you that they are enormously proud of what you accomplished, a sentiment that was expressed for all our partners pointedly in the most recent meeting by our founding chairman, Roger Hertog. I am sure the reference was not only to our reporters and editors, who come in for the public attention, but the advertising, circulation and business departments, whose staffers have gone out every day into the an environment in which most newspapers are losing advertising and circulation and yet managed to produce consistent gains. This month, our last, was a record month for advertising revenues, which were up more than 60 percent over the year earlier month and ahead of the budget goals, with year-to-date advertising revenues up nearly 25 percent.

* * *

We have all been taken aback and, I would say, humbled by the surge of support that has been conveyed since the announcement a month ago that we might have to close. Mayor Bloomberg, despite our differences on many issues, was our constant reader and encourager. We had messages from some of our greatest rabbis, and from His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan. Three of New York’s former governors spoke of the importance of the Sun, including Governor Pataki, who called what you have created “the best paper in New York.” Much as I appreciated the remark, I wouldn’t want to make too much of it — for me, it was privilege enough to be simply one among the newspapers in this magnificent newspaper town.

Some of the messages that touched me most were readers who sent in checks, with letters about what the Sun meant to them, and calls or comments from those with whom we don’t often agree on policy. The Central Labor Council and the president of the teachers union, Randi Weingarten, or Speaker Quinn or Comptroller Thompson, the Public Advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, and all the others who talked to our reporters, or wrote, or called to let us know how much they appreciated the intelligence, the passion, and the energy you brought to your beats. I sense in some of my conversations with them that they appreciated the fact that you covered their important work at all and that you dealt with them on the substance, and they will miss you as much as you will miss them.

* * *

It is in the nature of things that there are going to be some jeers as we go out, as there were when we came in. Do not be discouraged by this. To those who say to you, “I told you so, I knew you would fail” you can say this: “No wonder you didn’t join us.” And you — reporters, editors, critics, photographers, secretaries, sales executives, book-keepers, circulation staff, technology geniuses, drivers — all of you will be able to tell your children and your grandchildren or simply your friends that not only did you appear in arms in a great newspaper war but that you did so on your own terms, for principles you believed in, and worked with some of the greatest newspaper craftsmen and craftswomen of your generation — and you covered yourselves with distinction.

At our last board meeting, Ira Stoll mentioned that this is not the first time he and I have lost a newspaper we loved. We learned, in the years after the Forward, that one great newspaper adventure can lead to another, even greater one. As we shook hands after the meeting, Ira said to me that he wanted just to thank me for giving him these seven years at the Sun. He said he wouldn’t trade them for anything. I thanked him in return. I couldn’t have had a more magnificent partner. I wouldn’t have traded these years for anything, either. Ira and I thank you all as well. It has been the honor of our lives to have been in harness with you, and I am positive you all will go on to ever greater assignments.

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