The Corner

A Symptom . . . or a Root Cause?

So I was reading about the latest woes at Pinch Sulzberger’s New York Times. He’s been hurling sections overboard, and threatening to close The Boston Globe, but the bumpy descent keeps accelerating:

New York Times Co. fell the most in almost 22 years in U.S. trading after reporting a 27 percent drop in first-quarter advertising revenue and saying that the rate of decline won’t slow until at least the second half.

The net loss expanded to $74.5 million, or 52 cents a share, from $335,000 a year earlier, the newspaper publisher said today in a statement. Sales fell 19 percent to $609 million…

It occurs to me that the best chance of saving the U.S. newspaper industry would be if the New York Times collapsed. America’s stultifying monodailies are far more homogeneous than almost any other English-speaking media culture. A big part of this is the Times, and the horrible conformity it begets. The Times is the template for the entire industry: Its ethos dominates the journalism schools; it’s the model for a zillion other mini-me wannabe-Timeses across the continent, even though smug East Coast upper-middle-class metropolitan condescension would hardly seem an obvious winner for second-tier cities and rural districts. Its columns and features are reprinted coast to coast. Its priorities determine the agenda of the three nightly network newscasts, also (not coincidentally) flailing badly. The net result of the industry’s craven abasement before the Times is that American newspapering is dead as dead can be — and certainly far deader than its cousins in Britain, Australia, India, or even Canada.

If the Times closed, what would the mainstream media left behind do? Why, they would have to think for themselves. And some of them would still die. But some of them might get . . . lively, and iconoclastic, and one day even . . . readable. Not all of them: There would still be plenty of near-parodic thumbsucking pomposity for those whose bag that is. But there would be other kinds of papers, too. As the J-school bores say (but rarely do), celebrate diversity!

Just a thought.

(More from John Robson.)

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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