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Grey Lady Selling Her Ball Team

Hard hit by the financial crisis and dwindling readership, the New York Times Co. is looking to unload its stake in a fabled sports franchise and its ballyard.

Why, it's the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park, of course.

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The Times Co., according to the Wall Street Journal, is seeking a buyer for its 17.5 percent interest in New England Sports Ventures, which owns the Red Sox, Fenway Park and NESN, the dominant sports television network in New England. The company may also include the Boston Globe newspaper in the package.

It's well known that the New York Times is facing unprecedented financial crunch. In September, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim acquired a 6.4 percent stake in the company for $127 million. It recently put its Manhattan building up as a collateral in an effort to secure a new loan to replace a $400 million credit line that's scheduled to expire in May 2009. It's reported that the Times Co. is $1 billion in debt.

The problem is that short of selling its assets - and this would be a terrible time to sell - the Times Co. has very few options. Its ad revenue took a huge dive so far in the fourth quarter and its flagship paper is continuing to lose readers (at least the print editions) at an alarming rate. The latest ABC circulation report puts the Times at just over 1 million readers, down nearly 8 percent from 2007 and a net loss of nearly 183,000 readers since its peak in 1993.

Adding to the Times' woes is the continuing erosion of its prestige. Just earlier this week, it was forced to admit that it had published a fake letter from Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe criticizing Caroline Kennedy's senatorial bid. Its shoddy journalism was, well, appalling:

In this case, our staff sent an edited version of the letter to the sender of the e-mail and did not hear back. At that point, we should have contacted Mr. Delanoe's office to verify that he had, in fact, written to us. We did not do that. Without that verification, the letter should never have been printed.

Who knew it'd be so hard to find all the real news that's fit to print?