My cold is now the flu. I've long thought that the national papers, in particular The New York Times and The Washington Post, would survive the Great Disruption, albeit battered and much changed, in part because they have such huge Web traffic. Michael Hirschorn, writing for The Atlantic, suggests this might not be the case. He wonders if The Times can survive as a print product, or as a product at all, past May. This May.
The paper's credit crisis comes against a backdrop of ongoing and accelerating drops in circulation, massive cutbacks in advertising revenue, and the worst economic climate in almost 80 years. As of December, its stock had fallen so far that the entire company could theoretically be had for about $1 billion. The former Times executive editor Abe Rosenthal often said he couldn't imagine a world without The Times. Perhaps we should start.
Here in Seattle, people inside The Seattle Times have told me they wonder if the local Blethen family can hold on past February. Foreseeing what the end game would look like here is a complicated exercise, what with a joint operating agreement and with monolithic Hearst owning the JOA partner, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. In any event, it might be very soon we see a collapse here and elsewhere of a crucial institution the public is barely aware of. Writes Hirschorn:
If you're hearing few howls and seeing little rending of garments over the impending death of institutional, high-quality journalism, it's because the public at large has been trained to undervalue journalists and journalism. The Internet has done much to encourage lazy news consumption, while virtually eradicating the meaningful distinctions among newspaper brands.