19 Oct 2007

Couldn’t Happen To A More Deserving Paper

Michael S. Malone, at ABC News Silicon Insider, is here to bury the New York Times, not to praise her.

When B-school students a half-century from now read the case study about the ‘death’ of newspapers, it will be the New York Times they read about. …

As hard as may be for younger readers of this column to believe, twenty years ago, the New York Times was unquestionably the newspaper of record for the United States and (with the London Times) for much of the rest of the world. It had the most famous reporters and columnists, its coverage set the standard for all other news, and its opinions, delivered ex cathedra from the upper floors of the Gray Lady on 43rd Street set the topics of this country’s political debate.

Incredibly, almost every bit of that power has been squandered over the last two decades. It’s been a long time since anyone considered the Times to be anything but the newspaper of opinion for anyone but the residents of a few square miles of midtown Manhattan. …

Like most newspapers, the Times decided to become more timely, more hip, and more judgmental than the electronic media — when it should have become better reported, more objective, and better written; professionalism being the one arena where the new competitors would have a hard time competing.

What made the Times’ decision not to pursue this strategy particularly stupid was that it was, after all, ‘America’s newspaper of record’, a role in which it justly reveled. But you can’t hold that title while pandering to the political and cultural views of readers on the Upper West Side. And you can’t claim “all the news that’s fit to print” when you neglect to notice that an American soldier in Iraq just won the Medal of Honor. In the old days, if the Times didn’t cover it, it didn’t happen. That insulation is long gone: if the Times doesn’t cover it, the blogosphere will — and millions of readers will starting wondering about the judgment and biases of the New York Times.

Frankly, investors in the Times would be fools not to question the business judgment of the company — and major shareholders, like Morgan, would be criminally irresponsible to their clients if they didn’t.

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