New York Times crisis deepens

If the New York Times can’t
hold its own, who and what can?

The New York Times Co. reported a sharp drop in fourth-quarter 2008 operating profit.

December advertising revenues decreased 15.7% and circulation revenues increased 3.0%, compared with Dec. 2007.

The Times is doffing its Sox,
announcing it’s retained Goldman, Sachs & Co. “to explore the
possible sale” of the holding company for the Boston Red Sox.

In the Jan/Feb edition of The Atlantic columnist Michael Hirschorn
tackles the alarming idea that the Times will soon go under, concedes
the odds of it ceasing “to exist entirely come May are relatively
slim,” but concludes: “Ultimately, the death of The New YorkTimes—or at
least its print edition—would be a sentimental moment, and a severe
blow to American journalism. But a disaster? In the long run, maybe

I disagree with Hirschorn that the death of the Times
would not be a long-term disaster — not least because I do agree with
his comment: “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.”

Without the
Times — and the scarce few journalism institutions that rival its
(albeit imperfect) authority and integrity — the public will have
fewer means to learn to value journalism.