Officials at The New York Times and at Harvard Delivery News Service (HDNS) yesterday gave conflicting explanations for late deliveries of The Times to Harvard last week.
Mitchell W. Smith '82, manager of HDNS, said yesterday a work "slowdown" in New York by workers sympathizing with others who may lose their jobs--resulted in several-hour delays in delivery of The Times to the Boston area.
But Elliott M. Sanger Jr., manager of corporate relations for The Times, yesterday called Smith's explanation "not true" and said the only labor problems the Times has had in the recent past occurred two weeks ago, took place only in the New York press room and lasted only one day.
"There is no work slowdown," Sanger said, adding, "I know of no major delays at all--I'm sure that had there been any major delays, I would have heard."
All copies of the Times delivered by HDNS today--about 800--will contain a photocopied letter on Times stationary that reads, in part, "Due to production and transportation problems, The New York Times has been arriving late at Harvard University. The late deliveries are in no way the fault of Harvard Delivery News Service."
HDNS received the note from Theodore Tracy, a Boston-area circulation official, Smith said. Tracy was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Archie C. Epps III, dean of students, who oversees HDNS, said yesterday that last week he drafted a note similar to the one being distributed today, but that he asked Times officials to attribute late delivery to "labor and transportation problems."
Epps said he spoke with Tracy late last Thursday. "He kept saying things would get better, and I said I really didn't believe it," Epps said.
He added that late last week he spoke with an assistant to Don Nizen, the Times vice president for consumer marketing, asking that the Times fly newspapers to Harvard instead of driving them. Neither Nizen nor his assistant could be reached for comment yesterday.
Nizen's assistant indicated that flying the papers to Boston would cost too much, even though other Boston area subscribers have their Times delivered by Home Delivery News Service, which has its papers flown in, Epps said.
Timothy Bertaccini, assistant manager for the Times' college and school service, said yesterday that "complex problems" with the Times in New York spurred late delivery at Harvard, but he added that employees in his department "don't know at this time" what the specific difficulties are.
"Theo Tracy and I are having problems getting the answers," Bertaccini said. "A lot of upper level employees simply don't know what's going on," he added.
Bertaccini said he suspected problems in the New York mailroom might be causing late delivery of The Times to Boston.
Last Thursday, papers arrived in the Boston area late because an axle broke on the Times trailer as it was on its way from New York, Bertaccini added.
HDNS is the first stop on the Boston-area circulation route for the Times, which originates at the newspaper's office in Wellesley, Mass., Smith said. He added that the Times is paying both for the leaflets distributed today and for an ad in The Crimson on Thursday and Friday which exhonerates HDNS from blame.
Smith said he "doesn't know about" any legal responsibility The Times might have for the late deliveries, and he added that he does not plant to take action against the paper.
"They're a 24-hour product--not like canned fruit," Smith said, adding, "They slow down one day with no paper, but then they're fine the next day."
The Times assumes that late delivery does not constitute any liability on their part, Berticcini said. He added that he doubts HDNS will ask for reparations from the Times or termination of HDNS's contract with the paper. "They're trying to make some money off this too," he said.
Addressing Bertaccini's remark that "maybe Sulzberger (Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, publisher of the Times) knows" what is causing the delivery problems, Epps said he had not asked Sulzberger about the matter.
"I haven't had it in mind--but I haven't gotten there yet," Epps said