The New York Times not-so-obvious war against The Washington Post

Jeff Poor Media Reporter
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Once upon a time, there were the Sulzbergers and Grahams – the royalty of the newspaper industry. Each had their ownership stake in The New York Times and The Washington Post, respectively. It was a friendly yet spirited rivalry.

But as the media have evolved in a digital age, the economics for survival have become more difficult and more competitive. And the Times’ latest crusade against for-profit institutions of higher learning could be an indication.

“The Obama administration has already adopted several new rules that will give the Department of Education more authority to rein in corrupt practices by for-profit universities,” a Times editorial from Dec. 6, 2010 said. “But the most crucial rule, the ‘gainful employment’ provision, is still awaiting approval, and the industry is pushing back hard. Under the provision, the department would examine for-profit colleges and nonprofit trade programs to see how much debt their students accumulated in paying for schooling, and whether the jobs they secured after graduation allowed them to repay their loans.”

This criticism hasn’t been the only jab taken at for-profit schools by the Times.  Since June 4, 2010, the so-called national newspaper of record has published 20 articles, one op-ed and two editorials that have been critical of the for-profit university model.

So, why so much attention?

One possible explanation: It’s a huge source of revenue for the paper’s chief rival, The Washington Post. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post Co.’s newspaper division lost a combined $356 million over the past two years. However, the Post Co.’s Kaplan higher-education division posted an operating profit of nearly $450 million.

Meanwhile, the Times continues to post losses. Back in October, the Times posted a $4.3-million loss.