The New Barbarians are about to enter the boardroom, as the New York Times expands its governing body by two, "welcoming" Firebrand's Scott Galloway and Kohlberg & Co.'s James Kohlberg. It's a big deal -- the first time in the 41-year-old public company history of the Times that outside shareholders have joined.
They’ve huffed and puffed their way past the boardroom portals, settling for two seats, after pushing for four. Their election is a formality, due on April 22, just five days after this Thursday's Times' announcement of its 2Q earnings. Those earnings won't likely be pretty, and calls for re-evaluation and new thinking will increase in pitch outside and now inside the boardroom.
Which got me to thinking. With all the old faces leaving the newsrooms and executive suites of the newspapers, isn’t it time to really shake up other boardrooms as well. Why wait for private equity people to buy their way in? It’s time for new blood to percolate happily around the out-sized tables of endangered wood. And, unless there's a law out there I don't know about, would be criminal to have board members under the age of 50?
Figuring that the board recruitment committees need some names, I’ve started a list. Feel free to nominate your own.
- Caroline Little: Newly out, likely in a Washington Post restructuring, she's led the industry's most innovative city site. She understands that the web is a different creature than print and that winning requires reaching out and partnering with lots of Web 2.0 companies.
- Steve Jobs: Isn’t he a bit taken aback when he picks up the hometown Mercury News these days? Doesn’t he know he could offer an idea or two about the confluence of customer-pleasing content, intuitive design and business models that no one else thought were possible.
- Arianna Huffington: She’s arrived again, a Hearst of the digital age. What is she seeing in the emergence of a new journalism that legacy publishers are missing?
- Jeff Skoll: A graduate of Knight Ridder (Business Information), he was eBay employee #1 and first president, driving its marketplace-changing potential from a mere idea and cashed out early to devote himself to a new lifetime of good works. His Skoll Foundation promotes entrepreneurial philanthropy. I know an industry that could some of that money and thinking.
- Matt Mullenweg: Founder of Automattic, the company behind Wordpress, and someone who understands Pro/Am journalism from the Am side.
- Stephen Colbert: His brilliant send-up is based on a keen understanding of the foibles of modern news media. A board seat would be highly entertaining for all -- and challenge him to help journalists get it right as the web re-invents what’s possible.
- Craig Newmark: One word: penance.
- Gordon Crovitz: He built one of the most successful and unique online business models – WSJ.com paid subscriptions! – and now Rupert’s given him time and money to take on new things.
- Diablo Cody: If the Oscar-winning Juno screenwriter could provide an insider’s view of the newspaper industry as piercing as the one she wrote for the strip club business (“Candy Girl”), the world would get quite an education.
- Chris Matthews: Let’s make him head of a compensation committee, and let his slash-and-burn, attack-dog questioning style really put old newspaper leadership thinking to the test.
- Oprah Winfrey: She’s newly mastered publishing and intuitively understands one thing that’s eluded news publishers online: a massive, engaged, loyal audience.
- Eliot Spitzer: He’s got time on his hands and a fine ability to be comfortable with ambiguity, a talent sorely needed.
- Ken Stern: Recently ousted as head of NPR, in part for transforming the public radio network too quickly into a major online player, he’s got a talent for seeing how one medium can morph into another.
- Mary Junck: The Lee CEO understands a simple truth: Newspaper companies can be remarkable sales and marketing engines – and the Internet expands their potential.
- Ira Glass: No one does finer feature journalism, and his investigative chops are growing ("The Audacity of Government"). What can he impart about what he’s learned?
- Rob Curley: Always room for a boy genius and self-described "Internet punk"! The current vp/products for WashingtonPost.com is the kind of tweener every board needs.
- Alberto Ibarguen: Knight Foundation chief and a wise head overall, he’d bring experienced and connected savvy to any board.
- Stephen Smyth: On his way out after five tumultuous years at Reuters, Smyth's seen about every business model come, go and come again. And he's learned a lot along the way
- Will Sutton: A longtime Knight Ridder editor, Will's deeply in touch with young journalists through the Hampton University program. It's the young journalists who will form the new journalism, and they need smart representation.
- Kjell Aamot: CEO of Schibsted, the little-written about Scandinavian news company that's mastered the era of web-first publishing and expanded from Norse country to Iberia to Latin America. How about the colonies?
- Phil Balboni: He took a new medium –local cable (New England Cable News) – and built it into a powerhouse. Now heading up profit-seeking Global News, his experience and drive could be some other company’s gain.
- Clear Channel Communications Exec: Better grab one quick before Sam Zell gets ‘em all!
That’s a start. Who’s on your slate?