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Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Is The New York Times Giving Us a Bad Read?"

John Hempton has a question:

Is the New York Times giving us a bad read on the newspaper business?, by John Hempton: News Corp’s newspaper advert numbers are bad – but they are not catastrophic. ... The death of newspapers looked exaggerated if your benchmark was News Corp.

The WSJ is doing OK- not stellar – but OK. Murdoch clearly has plans to turn it (a) into a national paper, and (b) into the dominant paper in NYC. In that he is helped by the seeming failures of the New York Times.   

The New York Times is a paper I want to like, but in fact like less and less. It is falling into catastrophic disrepair and the stock price shows it.

The New York Times has become the poster boy for the demise of newspapers everywhere. Revenue and profitability is weak – and the paper looks doomed. Well is it possible – just possible – that the NYT editorial policies are giving us all a false read about the demise of papers? 

  • Why is it that the paper employs Ben Stein despite the regular and ludicrous columns so well criticised by Felix Salmon?
  • Does anybody still read Maureen Dowd? As far as I can tell the same incoherent column has been repeated for about a decade. (Maybe I am just insensitive to "gender issues"?) Is this worth a regular editorial column in what purports to be the world’s greatest paper?
  • Bob Herbert suits my liberal predisposition – but I don’t bother reading him because I learn little new or useful. He is too predictable. And he has been that predictable for fifteen years...
  • Friedman seems to know less about foreign affairs (outside Israel and Beirut) than I do. And I know very little. He has been spectacularly wrong quite often. Unlike Friedman though I know I know little about foreign affairs - he has a platform to show off his ignorance twice a week...
  • David Brooks is a poor replacement for the conservative William Safire. Safire wrote better – and more to the point I had little idea what he was going to say and sometimes I was forced by sheer power of argument to agree with him. David Brooks has never done that for me. Safire was a disingenous guy who twisted facts to suit his political views - but he was darn clever about how he did it...
  • In the editorial area all they have is the very clever Krugman. I agree with Krugman a good proprotion of the time - but I am forced to think. He drives conservatives to apoplexy for the same reasons that Safire drove liberals to apoplexy. He is too darn good. Unlike Safire he doesn't twist the facts - at least in my view. If only the paper could find five writers the standard of Krugman covering most political persuasons. But then it would need to sack the others!

And that is when I get to the editorial policy. Need I repeat that this was the paper that employed Jayson Blair (who just made it up with little consequence for the world) and Judith Miller (whose seemingly made up stories helped propel America to the Iraq war). 

The New York Times is failing... In the past the New York Times would be forgiven their failures – because there were few alternative sources of information. But now there are plenty… competition is rife.

Competition is seldom good for shareholders. It hurts well run businesses but competition has a knack of totally disposing of badly run businesses. Indeed that is the real charm of competition. 

I want to ask a question: how much of the awful results of the New York Times are because of the demise of newspapers generally – and how much are newspaper specific?  How would we know?  ...

    Posted by on Sunday, October 26, 2008 at 04:32 PM in Economics, Press | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (57)

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