The New York Times masthead has carried this statement (without the question mark) since 1896 when the Ochs family acquired the newspaper that it still controls today.
There may have been a sharp intake of breath this week when it was deciding how to report its own financial results which like those of its peers in the newspaper business did not make for pretty copy. The Times is now in a battle to survive. Its failure would be catastrophic for anyone that believes in serious journalism and would represent a systemic threat to the intelligence of America.
Of course the New York Times is only part of the problem and much of the bleeding is coming from its papers in New England including the Boston Globe but a focus on these disguises problems that surely threaten the Times itself. What makes matters worse is that the Times HAS adapted to technology; it has an exceptional web property together with I Phone and Kindle distribution but it may not be enough even with micro-payments for single issue purchases.
The problem with newspapers is much bigger than any one publisher or title and the simple fact is the United States simply can’t support the local printing and news gathering structure that exists today. Perhaps the end game for the market will be four newspapers:
- The upscale, features rich Times with sections for all the significant metros
- The business facing WSJ
- A left leaning popular tabloid
- A right leaning popular tabloid
It’s a scary thought for some but such a notion amplified by local, community centric online options may combine quality, efficiency and relevance in a way that is currently economically unsustainable. The alternatives are bleak. It’s likely that more than half of all the newspapers are insolvent or within a whisker of being so and without active collaboration we are facing a collective corporate suicide of Jonestown proportions.