OFF THE GRID

It's Not The New York Times

Mar 27, 09 | 8:31 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Among the biggest media stories going, it surely seems to me, is the end of the New York Times. The verities not just of journalism but of the establishment itself—nurtured, and in part created, by the New York Times—necessarily change. This seemed so large to me that, not too long ago, I proposed the Times’ decline and fall as a natural book topic. The response among various publishers was practically unanimous: Not enough people would be interested.

It’s just the last of the Times Mohicans. Everybody else has moved on.

That is why it will be a minor-most story that, yesterday, the Times announced a paring of 100 jobs and salary cuts of 5%. What this is, of course, is the first of many stages of cuts, which, doled out piecemeal as they have been at every paper across the nation, will reduce the Times to an imitation of itself. If few people care about the end of the Times, fewer still will notice that it is ending.

This seems like tragedy but is probably not.
   

(AP Image)
 

The New York Times, as we know it, has been disappearing for some time. It may—diminishing as though by half-lives—have degraded to the point where, in any practical sense, it has long since ceased to be the leading voice in either journalism or the establishment.

This is partly of its own doing: Almost all of its strategies to deal with the changes in the newspaper business—its national strategy, its online strategy, its regional strategy (buying the Boston Globe), its international strategy (buying the International Herald Tribune)—have bitten it in the ass. Nor have its strategies to deal with the changes in news itself been so successful—the featurizing and softnews-ifying of the front page has made the must-read Times a not-so-important read.

But mostly the problem is that the New York Times is a newspaper. Once there was the New York Times, which, while in the form of a newspaper, represented something so much more significant—it was a daily bible. But now it is just a newspaper—no better, no worse. And there is nothing that it can do to escape the problems and the fate of all other newspapers. Technological obsolescence doesn’t discriminate. (The Times' game efforts to compete in this world have only meant that it’s seen a faster undermining of its main revenue source—the newspaper).

The last of the Times Mohicans—that band of journalism devotees (something more and more like railroad hobbyists), retro-Jewish liberals, and those remaining establishment types who depend on the Times to write about them—with their belief that the Times is unique and necessary, continue to hope against hope for a white knight solution. 

They will supply the whimper.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com
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OFF THE GRID is about why the news is the news. Here are the real motivations of both media and newsmakers. Here's the backstory. This is a look at the inner workings of desperate media, the inner life of the publicity crazed, and the true meaning of the news of the day.

 

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