Will the ad-revenue-generating power of TV vs. online advertising increase Rupert Murdoch’s influence over the national conversation? 8/24/08Posted by Steve Boriss in AP, Murdoch, NYTimes, Wall Street Journal.
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We have another indication, as if we needed another, that online ads do not attract ad revenues like their counterparts in television. Based on Olympics ad spending, TV video ads may be 100x more valued by advertisers than online video ads. Video ad spending on NBCOlympics.com was only $5.75 million, just 1.1% of the $505 million total for video ad spending. A crude comparison, but still…
In the national news supply chain, original content driving the national conversation has originated from the newspaper side — AP, NY Times, and Washington Post — which are converging to the low revenue world of online advertising. On the other hand, Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, unlike those venerable institutions, can draw upon the resources of News Corporation’s high revenue-generating TV properties. More revenues, more original reporting, more control over the national conversation. Look for Murdoch’s influence over our top stories to increase.
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It has been months since the Wall Street Journal starting turning its ship in the direction of the New York Times for a direct confrontation. The Journal has been adding Times-like political and lifestyle coverage at a rapid clip, while the Times has seemed to be dead in the water. But perhaps, that’s all about to change.
Advertising Age reports that now the Times is adding Journal-like coverage of the “economy, energy, small business, personal finance and enterprise technology.” Moreover, the Times seems to be upping the ante online by including news aggregated from competitors, a step into the future that the Journal has not yet taken. It’s good for news consumers finally to see some healthy competition — a word that has been relatively absent from the news industry in the last century.
Murdoch repeats strategy: WSJ’s “objective of being objective” mirrors Fox’s “fair and balanced” 7/7/08Posted by Steve Boriss in Murdoch, NYTimes, Wall Street Journal.
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In the cable news wars, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox New Channel famously launched while claiming to be “fair and balanced,” a none-too-subtle slam against CNN, which conservative viewers suspected of liberal bias. The strategy worked, splitting the market between left and right, and perhaps also pulling-in some liberal viewers who had no objection to news being fair and balanced.
Now it appears that Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal might be attempting a similar ploy as it positions itself as a rival to the New York Times for U.S. and international coverage. New Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Robert Thomson says that his journalists “have the objective of being objective,” adding “At The New York Times, you have news with a skew. Or a skew with news.” Not quite ready for an advertising jingle, but you get the point. The WSJ plans to seize the high ground for fairness and balance, shoving the NY Times into left field. Or at least, that’s Murdoch’s objective.
Wall Street Journal is webifying its front page, while the NY Times is not. One reason the WSJ is performing better? 4/28/08Posted by Steve Boriss in NYTimes, Uncategorized, Wall Street Journal.
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With NY Times weekday circulation down 4% and the WSJ’s flat-to-up, it begs the question “why?” There’s no better place to start seeking an answer than by examining the front pages of the two papers above the fold. That’s where readers get their first impression and potential newsstand buyers get their final sales pitch. The contrast between the two papers could not be more stark.
Today’s WSJ front page above the fold resembles a web site’s home page. There are more than 20 headlines to choose from, all with page numbers that resemble links, directing the reader to jump back and forth between the front page and articles within. This is a paper that wants to spare the reader the trouble of turning through every page hoping to find articles of interest.
On the other hand, today’s NY Times front page above the fold features only 3 stories, and what a bunch of yawners they are! If you don’t happen to be interested in Zimbabwe, stricter rules on mortgages, or a female Muslim educator, you will not be engaged. The way we read news is changing. The WSJ is trying to keep up with it, while the Gray Lady is not. Perhaps the circulation numbers simply tell the tale.
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“I think American journalism has some soul-searching to do…If there’s a presumption that…’New York Times journalism’ is the pinnacle of our profession, the profession is in some difficulty.” Those are trash-talking fighting words from Robert Thomson, former editor of the Times of London and new publisher of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal (WSJ). He sees the NY Times as a fool’s gold standard, calling its journalism “self-serving.” He mocks a paper that prizes readers less than prizes from other journalists. That measures an article’s worth by its length. That claims to be objective, but leans left.
But lest you think Thomson is all talk, Murdoch is putting his money where his mouth is. In an industry suffering ongoing layoffs, the WSJ’s newsroom staff is 25% higher than 2 years ago and growing. Political and foreign coverage are expanding. Sports is being added. There’s even a new quarterly magazine on fashion and travel. Gone is the gentleman’s agreement between the paper’s former owners, the Bancroft family, and the NY Times’ Sulzbergers, in which the WSJ settled for the “silver medal” as a second, more business-oriented read “for those who already had digested a local or national newspaper.” Make no mistake, Murdoch is now going for the gold.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, Eliot Spitzer’s delusion that a sitting NY Governor could hire a prostitute was only the last act of a man whose arrogance, thuggishness, and disregard for limits made him too dangerous to govern. In his successful campaign for NY Attorney General, he flagrantly violated campaign finance laws, then lied about it. He routinely threatened indictments and made public accusations to force the dismissal of executives such as AIG’s Hank Greenberg. He threatened former Goldman Sachs chief John Whitehead for publishing an article defending Greenberg, saying “I will be coming after you. You will pay the price. This is only the beginning, and you will pay dearly for what you have done.”
The Founding Fathers gave us freedom of the press mostly so newspapers could help protect our rights from government tyrants like Mr. Spitzer. But from the very beginning, the NY Times breached its faith with the people and sided with tyranny. In their editorial endorsement for Spitzer for Attorney General, the Times more or less admitted he was a campaign finance crook, but told readers to vote for him anyway. And, time after time, they lauded and promoted his government attacks on private sector firms and individuals, forgetting that their First Amendment responsibility is exactly the opposite — to protect private citizens from the abuses of government. The government is the sector that has ultimate power, not businesses which are at the mercy of the marketplace. Just like the other people in that old NY Times ad campaign, Eliot Spitzer got his job through the NY Times. But the people will have to go elsewhere for a paper that fulfills its most important job — to defend our freedoms. (H/T: Garry Rains)
As the NY Times prepares to stave-off its second shareholder revolt in as many years, things are not what they appear to be. This is not simply a fight between an inbred, blueblood, change-averse, and managerially-challenged Sulzberger family against financially-burned and opportunity-sniffing investors who want to drag them kicking and screaming into the digital world. The paper’s slowness in shifting from paper to electrons is insufficient to explain why its stock has lost half its value in the past 5 years, its bonds are rated two levels above junk, and it has drawn-in the new, Murdoch-run Wall Street Journal as its likely most formidable competitor in a century.
In fact, this shareholder revolt is a fight between Modern Journalism and a marketplace that wants it dead. This becomes clear when you consider that there is not a dime’s worth of difference between the problems faced by the Times and an industry that follows their lead and celebrates them as their gold standard.
Virtually none of the tenets of the Times and Modern Journalism are believable anymore. “All the news that’s fit to print?” How could it be all the news when so much more is available on the Internet? How could it all be fit to print, when the story about John McCain’s affairless affair clearly wasn’t? How could it all be “verified truth” when a leading network anchor couldn’t tell the difference between a forged document and a real one? And, who are you going to believe in regards to “objectivity” — a landslide two-thirds of the public who believe the media are biased, or an elite who seem genetically incapable of recognizing their own center-left views or acknowledging that honest men may differ?
The best idea for saving the Times inadvertently came from their former Public Editor Daniel Okrent, who admitted non-defensively that the Times is a liberal paper. The Times should embrace its liberalism and use it to build more loyalty among liberal readers and extinguish distrust among non-liberal ones. “Bias” is not a four-letter word. Partisan news was America’s standard until a century ago and it still works among today’s London newspapers. It is the future of news. Modern Journalism is not.
Murdoch rapidly transforming the Wall Street Journal into the Fleet Street Journal to compete head-on with the NY Times 2/11/08Posted by Steve Boriss in NYTimes, Wall Street Journal.
Rupert Murdoch is moving quickly to fulfill his pledge that his newly acquired Wall Street Journal will replace the NY Times as the leading “national elitist general-interest paper.” Not surprisingly, his first priority is converting the WSJ from a “business-interest” to a “general-interest” paper, and he has taken at least two steps in that direction. First, he is moving the WSJ offices from the financial district to midtown Manhattan. And second, its news coverage is moving well outside the business realm. Managing editor Marcus Brauchli said, “we believe there is no reason that people should have to go to another news source beyond the Journal to find news of consequence to them in any sphere — politics, economics, even culture and the arts.” Coverage of sports is also in the works.
But simply listing the new topics that will be covered understates the fundamental changes Murdoch is now imposing on the WSJ. He is changing its culture from serious, self-important Wall Street to fun, colorful, and competitive Fleet Street — the legendary culture of London’s newspapers that still exists in their tone, if not in their mailing addresses. Headlines and photos are being pumped-up to catch attention on newsstands. And blogger KnifeTricks notes that graphics of stippled, pinstriped executives are giving way to stripped, cleavaged models. Whether or not Murdoch eventually adds a bawdy Page 3, one thing is for certain. This will not be your grandfather’s Wall Street Journal.
Rupert Murdoch is too savvy, shrewd, engaged, and competitive for me to take this Politico article at face value. For one year, the editor of Murdoch’s Weekly Standard magazine, conservative Bill Kristol, will be writing a weekly column for the New York Times — at the same time Murdoch’s newly-acquired Wall Street Journal (WSJ) will be trying to sink the Times in head-to-head competition. NY Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal sounds sincere when he hails Bill Kristol as a man he respects intellectually and personally, and whose election season column will provide opposing views that Times readers will appreciate. But if Kristol’s column will be so good for the Times, why would Murdoch allow it? Here are two possible reasons.
First, Murdoch knows that the sound of Kristol’s name is like fingernails against a chalkboard to those with positions to the left of the center-left Times, and might alienate those Times readers. They will resent that a platform has been given to the genial, charming, and sensible face at ground zero of the “neo-conservatism” movement that they vilify. Many already suspect that the Times is actually right-wing, having accepted the government’s WMD rationale for the Iraq war. Kristol’s appointment may put them over the top, as it did The Nation’s Katha Pollitt, who pleaded “just shoot me.”
Second, Murdoch may understand Times readers better than the Times does, recognizing it is contrary to human nature for audiences to enjoy columns written by those with whom they disagree. When Murdoch pairs conservative Sean Hannity with liberal Alan Colmes on the same Fox News Channel show, he knows he is merely entertaining conservatives by giving them an opportunity to watch the mainstream media’s center-left views, which they find irritating and unavoidable, get smacked-down by their own worldviews. But for Times readers who can easily avoid daily exposure to conservative views, Bill Kristol will not only seem wrong, but also selfish, mean-spirited, and morally deficient. This Christmas, Murdoch gave the NY Times a gift worse than a lump of coal — he gave them a Trojan Horse.
It is now clear that the NY Times is a mere mortal, now 110 years since its rebirth as the paper with “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” Its vital signs are failing. Its stock price is one-third what it was five years ago, its bond rating is two levels above “junk,” and grim reaper Rupert Murdoch has sent his emissaries, the Wall Street Journal and NY Post, to deliver the Times to its final reward. Let us look back at the remarkable life and times of the Times, which from cradle to grave lived by one guiding principle — arrogance.
The early years — The Times was born the bastard child of two snobby, rather off-putting parents. Its mother of invention was a necessity felt by upscale New Yorkers to make newspapers serious again. Publisher Joseph Pulitzer had discovered a breakthrough formula for maximizing circulation — publishing news stories the respectable public wanted in unrespectable ways that also attracted the downscale, e.g. with material that was sensational, titillating, and satisfied prurient interests. Both he and publisher William Randolph Hearst acquired NY newspapers to implement this formula, and they engaged in an epic battle whose stylistic excesses were pejoratively dubbed “Yellow Journalism.” In response, the NY Times rallied the upscale toward a paper offering a more serious tone, under a banner that sniffed “All the news that’s fit to print.”
The NY Times’ father was the father of Modern Journalism, the brilliant but insufferable Walter Lippmann. His book, Liberty and the News, was also a snobbish reaction to “Yellow Journalism.” It called for a now-laughable effort to turn a rough-and-tumble craft like journalism into a science. He envisioned reporters as detached scientists taking “objective” testimony from witnesses, protecting their evidence from contamination by those with agendas, then verifying facts using methods akin to laboratory experiments. While Lippmann reversed himself 2 years later in his book Public Opinion, claiming such methods could never work in a newsroom, the young NY Times had already been reborn and could not be placed back in the womb.
The middle years — As the NY Times grew, it began to hang around with the wrong crowd — not criminal thugs, but intellectual ones. One of their most daring adventures was the infamous, but still un-famous, heist of the First Amendment. Previously, it had been understood that freedom of the press referred to everyone’s right to use a printing press just as everyone had freedom to speak — it was never intended to give special rights to a special clique of people known as “the press,” which did not exist as we know it at the time the amendment was drafted.
In a second heist, journalists declared independence from accountability to anyone other than themselves, distorting Lippmann’s ideas on contamination. Today, when the Times ingenuously invokes the “public’s right to know,” we are scolded that no one must be allowed to tell journalists what to do — not a government trying to keep secrets from terrorists, news managers trying to run a profitable business, stockholders seeking a higher share price, or even readers with lower-brow tastes. For protection, they even created a dual-class stock structure to keep those who own most of the financial value of the company from picking Times Board members.
The curmudgeon years — Times Executive Editor Bill Keller recently left his papers’ new Manhattan fortress to give a revealing lecture in London. In a striking display of his insular existence, he painted all bloggers with the same brush, dismissing the legitimacy of them all. He stabbed some allies in the back by mocking the “citizen journalism” movement that encourages pro-am, journalist-citizen newsgathering. He declared newspapers’ superiority over all, claiming adherence to a “rigorous set of standards” and a “journalism of verification” with specific methods that no one has actually ever seen in writing, perhaps explaining reporter Walter Duranty’s cover-up of Stalin’s atrocities and the fabrications of Jayson Blair. He lauded his paper’s impartiality despite the inconvenient fact that Public Editor Daniel Okrent’s column “Is the NY Times a Liberal Newspaper?” begins “Of course it is.” He bragged about a worldwide corps of full-time reporters that included 6 in Iraq, fewer full-time reporters in a country at war than a typical local TV station has in a metro area. But, not a word about plans to make editorial changes to lure back disaffected readers.
With dwindling numbers believing the Times still offers “All the news that’s fit to print,” is it time for a new moniker? How about this one from Times editor Kate Phillips about those who leave comments on her blog?: “I almost wish we could go back to the days when we never heard their voices.” On second thought, that might make a better epitaph.
Battle for control of the National Conversation: Wall Street Journal on offense, NY Times on defense on business news 12/11/07Posted by Steve Boriss in NYTimes, Wall Street Journal.
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We have seen what may be the NY Times’ (NYT) first defensive maneuver to protect itself against Rupert Murdoch’s plan to unseat it as the leading “national elitist general-interest paper.” A few weeks ago, Murdoch’s tag team of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and the NY Post took a swipe at the Sunday NYT Magazine’s luxury advertiser revenues by announcing their own glossy weekend magazines. No reaction from the NYT.
This time, Murdoch again went on the offensive by announcing the WSJ would drop its premium services paywall, now offering for free financial news that is sufficiently valuable that many had previously been willing to pay for it. The NYT is responding by making a deal to publish business news from Reuters, a wire service provider of widely available, commodity, one-size-fits-all news that never would have been sufficiently valuable to attract paid subscriptions. The NYT might be credited with recognizing that aggregated news from others will be critical to competing on the Internet. On the other hand, it will also be necessary to offer readers value-added facts and opinions they cannot get anywhere else. The NYT seems to be going through the motions without quite understanding them, and continuing to lose ground — ground they will never make-up unless some day they decide to play offense.
NY Times condemns Citizen Journalism, launching a futile civil war that neither side will win 11/30/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Citizen journalism, NYTimes.
In a startling speech, NY Times Executive Editor Bill Keller launched a gratuitous civil war in the journalism community by grossly mischaracterizing the work of Jeff Jarvis, a capable and talented individual sincerely seeking to save Old Media from extinction. Keller falsely claimed that Jarvis had said that all bloggers were “Citizen Journalists” and they would ultimately replace mainstream media. Keller then set this strawman-of-his-own-making ablaze, haughtily declaring that no “newcomers” could match the Times’ “worldwide…corps of trained skilled reporters to witness events,” nor their “rigorous set of standards” and “code of accuracy and fairness.”
But unlike Jeff Jarvis in his defense of himself, I am willing to douse and defend that strawman with just a couple of minor tweaks. The correct and original definition of “blogs” (formerly “web logs”) was a site that presented information in reverse chronological order. This format has already largely replaced Old Media’s daily news snapshots. A newcomer named Matt Drudge has already proven that a blogger can get more online traffic than the NY Times. What’s more, Matt Drudge can draw from a much larger set of news sources around the world than the Times’ vaunted corps of trained reporters — whoever said that reporters are worthless unless they are on a news organization’s own payroll?
And the time has come to call the Press’ bluff on the “journalism of verification” that Keller invoked as a NY Times standard in his speech. In the closest thing there is to scripture in modern journalism, “The Elements of Journalism” by Kovach and Rosenstiel, we learn that when journalists were asked where they learned concepts of verification “overwhelmingly the answer was: by trial and error and on my own or from a friend [and rarely from] journalism school or from their editors.” In other words, everyone seems to have their own method of verification, including we can assume the Times’ Stalin-apologist Walter Duranty and fabricator Jayson Blair.
Jeff Jarvis is dead-right that the future of journalism is networked — where he is wrong is on who will be connected. In my view, there will be independent topic experts who create stories, and each will be networked to multiple separate entities that aggregate and edit those stories for their audiences. Right now, neither average citizens nor reporters are topic experts, nor are traditional editors aggregators. And yet, Old Media still resists change, even from allies like Jeff Jarvis. The NY Times has met the real enemy and it is themselves.
NY Times Editor inadvertently nails her paper’s problem: “I almost wish we could go back to the days when we never heard their voices.” 11/5/07Posted by Steve Boriss in NYTimes.
The NY Times will finally, but fearfully, allow readers to post comments under their articles, something the Washington Post and USA Today have been doing for quite awhile. The Times is so worried about this baby step that they have taken the unprecedented precaution of hiring four part-time staffers to screen each submission before posting it, rather than simply allowing readers to call attention to problem posts like other online newspapers. Kate Phillips, editor of the Times’ Caucus blog said that she struggles so much with the “intolerance” and “vitriol” she sees in some comments that on rare occasions “I almost wish we could go back to the days when we never heard their voices.”
Unfortunately for Ms. Phillips and others at the Times who still may not get it, those pesky “voices” are those of citizens, who government must serve, and customers, whose readership will determine the fate of her publication. King George III and Marie Antoinette no doubt also wished they could go back to the days when they never heard their voices — but at least they might be forgiven for believing their positions were so secure that it would take a bloody revolution of historic proportions to end their reign.
If so many in the Times’ audience are as angry as Ms. Phillips knows they are, the simplest explanation is that there is a problem with the Times. In virtually every other industry it is understood that the first step is to listen to what dissatisfied audiences are saying, even pay for their toll-free phone calls so they can vent their unhappiness, and not to suppress or ignore customer complaints. If the Times is to survive, they must listen to the anger, be honest with themselves, think how they might be contributing to it, and do their best to address it. Of course, that would require humility, a trait the Times is not best known for.
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Murdoch’s recent Wall Street Journal acquisition and Fox Business Channel launch have set him apart from his competitors. He continues to drive full speed ahead into markets that others see as declining, if not dying. This week we saw it again when Murdoch’s U.K. publishing arm, News International, invested in an online search engine specially designed for real estate. Ostensibly, this move is designed to catch survival-critical advertising revenues that newspapers now seem destined to lose, and drag them over to an online news operation.
Meanwhile, it seems like every mainstream outlet has shifted into reverse. The Washington Post decided years ago that the newspaper business was hopeless, and with investor Warren Buffet’s help diversified so much into education, broadcasting, and cable that it can now afford to dump the paper entirely. Media companies Belo and E.W. Scripps are splitting-away their newspaper publishing arms from their other businesses, ready for possible divestitures. Knight-Ridder and the Tribune Company have already bailed.
Which leaves the NY Times as Chicken-Little watching the sky fall. All her eggs are still in the same newspaper basket, as the Fox’s NY Post and Wall Street Journal loiter in the same NYC market, licking their chops. Times publisher Sulzberger is in a “Pinch,” and it may be too late to fly the coop.
The NY Times had every right to publish the Petraeus ad, and we have every right not to take them seriously 9/24/07Posted by Steve Boriss in NYTimes.
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Now that it’s clear that the NY Times violated its own policies by giving MoveOn.org an inappropriate discount for an ad that included an inappropriate personal attack, the question must be asked, “So what?” The NY Times competes in the private sector, it has the right to both set and violate its own policies, and its editors have the same rights to freedom of speech and the press as any of us. So, if they can charge whatever they want and print whatever they want, why is everyone, including the Times, acting like someone did something wrong?
In fact, the only party that has been wronged is the long-suffering Times’ stockholder (shares down 60% vs. 5 years ago), whose company’s management has strangely encouraged us to think of their paper as a “newspaper of record,” as if it were a non-partisan branch of the government. But the Times cannot live-up to this false expectation — it is a for-profit business, objectivity is not an achievable goal, and the paper has been neither willing nor able to meet its self-professed standards, the Petraeus ad being just the latest example. Is setting readers’ expectations then failing to meet them, thereby disappointing and angering many on a regular basis, really a good business strategy? Ultimately, disgruntled readers will stop taking the Times seriously, which is when shareholders may finally take this issue seriously.
If the purpose of the NY Times’ new “City Room” was to put all of the shallow cliches about the Internet, bloggers, and the future of news into one convenient location, it must be considered an enormous success. According to the Times, it is a “blog,” an “online community,” it will “respond quickly” to breaking news, will include “in-depth” reports from all “five boroughs of the city,” “encourage reader comments and discussion,” feature frequent “web videos,” include “news profiles on neighborhoods,” and contain “links to primary sources.”
After reviewing the City Room site, I have only one question — why would anyone actually visit it? Rather than having the feel, charm, and point-of-view that characterizes personal blogs, it offers a collection of unrelated stories that just happen to be entered in reverse chronological order. And, it does not offer the type of hyperlocal news that directly affects readers’ lives because the chances of a story actually being about a reader’s hyperlocal area are slim in a city as large and diverse as New York. So, by offering a collection of unrelated stories about someone else’s part of town, why would the Times expect readers to feel like they are part of a “community,” much less be inspired to submit online comments? I don’t get it, and I suspect Morgan Stanley and other shareholders seeking to unseat the controlling Sulzberger family might not either.
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Yesterday’s events at Virginia Tech were an unspeakable tragedy. I suspect that only those who have lost loved ones to violence will be able to comprehend what the families of these innocent victims must be going through now, much less how it will continue to haunt them for the rest of their lives. Nevertheless, given that news shapes public opinion, which in turn guides policies that might lead to fewer such tragedies in the future, it is not uncompassionate to comment on how the media are covering this story. The New York Times provided its typical combination of excellence in facts and style, and obliviousness to its bias. Dropped-in among the facts is “Virginia imposes few restrictions on the purchase of handguns and no requirement for any kind of licensing or training. ‘Virginia’s gun laws are some of the weakest state laws in the country,’ said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. ‘And where there have been attempts to make some changes, a backdoor always opens to get around the changes, like the easy access at gun shows.'” What more needs to be said? How about the views of any other spokesperson that has a worldview anywhere to the right of center-to-far left. No expert to counter that the campus had designated itself a “gun-free” zone, putting into doubt whether such laws matter. No voice to point out that this “gun-free” designation might have actually encouraged the sniper, who could thereby be certain that no law-abiding citizen could use lethal force to disrupt his heinous act. Not to mention that the gun-free designation actually did preclude the possibility that a law-abiding citizen could intervene — perhaps committing a useful act of violence against one individual to preserve the lives of many others. If the people at the NY Times are as smart as they think they are, they ought to understand that their front page news stories actually do contain opinion — not that there is anything wrong with that. In the future of news, there will be opinion in news, but news outlets will admit it, and their readers will recognize and appreciate it as a benefit.
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The NY Times’ masthead logo “All the news that’s fit to print” dates back to 1896, and reflected an ideal that is obsolete, from another time, elitist, and was never a particularly good idea in the first place. Coined during the time of the worst excesses of the allegedly vulgar and sensationalist “Yellow Journalism” movement, it was a battle cry from the upscale, who demanded the return of news for the “respectable” public. They wanted serious and authoritative news of government and business, not human interest stories or news about crime, violence, sex, and other material designed to titillate their prurient interests. Modern Journalism fully sided with the upscale public, and locked-out other news approaches for roughly a century. However, readers interested in “downscale news” never went away, and ultimately have found outlets for their tastes in People magazine, tabloids, daytime TV talk shows, Cable TV, and most recently, the Internet. So now, despite their ideals, journalists have no choice but to cover Imus and other news that fits the public’s taste, even if it does not fit theirs.
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In order to have a future, papers like the NY Times must get young people back in the habit of reading newspapers. This may be the single most serious crisis for papers. Less than 40% of 18-24 year olds now read a daily newspaper, down from 70% forty years ago. So, what has the NY Times done about it? First, in what seemed like a desperate attempt, it began to give papers away for free on campuses. Astonishingly, this apparently has not done much for young readership. Next, the Times decided to give away free subscriptions to its TimesSelect premium service to students. Unfortunately, this service mostly provides access to opinion columns, a dime a dozen on the Internet, and old Times archives, which are available to most students through their campuses’ access to Lexis-Nexis. What next? Well, this week the Times added a blog called “The Graduates” to TimesSelect featuring the postings of a handful of strangers who happen to be seniors at other colleges. It’s behind this firewall, but described here. Is there anybody who believes that this will be more interesting to students than the blogs of friends and family? If the Times is already giving everything away to students for free, and ideas like “The Graduates” blog are the best ideas left, where can the NY Times go from here to save their franchise?