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Posts Tagged ‘Lawrence Wright’

TIDNINGSDÖDEN: Alla med intresse för kvalitetstidningar följer noga The New York Times utveckling.

Att The New York Times fortfarande är USA:s – och för all del även världens – absolut bästa morgontidningarna betyder inte att tidning saknar problem. Tvärt om.

Tidningen brottas precis som alla andra kvälls- och morgontidningar med stora ekonomiska problem och den hårda konkurrensen inom tidningsvärlden och Internet. Till detta kommer att NYT har haft sin beskärda del av skandaler som urholkat förtroendet för journalistiken både internt och externt.

En av dessa skandaler beskrivs ingående av Seth Mnookin i boken Hard News: Twenty-One Brutal Months at the New York Times and How They Changed the American Media. Mnookin beskriver hur en av tidningens journalister – Jayson Blair – lyckades få en lång rad fabricerade artiklar publicerade innan någon reagerade på de varningssignaler som trots allt fanns från första början.

Men främst handlar problemen om dålig ekonomi och knivskarp konkurrens. Mark Bowden har beskrivit problemen för Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. som är tidningens fjärde generation publisher och ägare;

For 10 years or more, Arthur’s signature phrase about this seismic change in the news business, the one he repeats to show that he gets it, has been platform agnostic (…) The phrase itself reveals limited understanding. When the motion-picture camera was invented, many early filmmakers simply recorded stage plays ( …)  But the true pioneers realized that the camera was more revolutionary than that. It freed them from the confines of a theater. Audiences could be transported anywhere (…) To be platform agnostic is the equivalent of recording stage plays.

“When I first heard Arthur talk about being platform agnostic, I knew he was trying to suggest that he was not stuck in a newspaper mind-set,” says Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. “But I thought there were two problems with that language. One is, agnostics are people who don’t—who aren’t sure what they believe in. That’s the first problem. And the second problem is, in practice, there is no such thing as being platform agnostic (…) If you really want to move to the Internet in a serious way, you need to change the culture of a news organization and decide that the Internet is the primary new thing. Platform agnostic means that all the online companies are going to zoom past you, because they’re going to exploit that technology while you’re sitting there thinking (…) You need to be, in fact, not platform agnostic but platform orthodox (…)”

Arthur’s argument, or his hope, is that the quality of the Times’s brand will prevail, that quality independent journalism is so obviously valuable that serious readers will continue to seek it out. He has been offering the Times content for free because experience has shown that subscriber-only stories leak—they are copied and e-mailed and rapidly proliferate for free anyway—and because Internet users, accustomed to getting information for free, are loath to pay for it. Do you remove yourself from the global conversation if you wall yourself off? Can you make enough money on subscriptions to survive? The Wall Street Journal has gone in this direction online, while offering some free content. The jury is still out. Arthur has continued to provide Times content for free, but is considering reversing direction. His brand remains the best in the business, but that hasn’t solved his revenue problems. Journalism costs. The revenue from Internet advertising is still only about a tenth of total revenue. Even if those millions of brief hits on nytimes.com continue to swell, the Times itself may be in bankruptcy court long before the Web site generates enough revenue to replace what Arthur has lost.

 In fairness, no one has the answer for newspapers.

Se även: End Times, Michael Hirschorn (The Atlantic, januari/februari 2009); Rupert To Internet: It´s War!, Michael Wolff (Vanity Fair, november 2009) och Slim’s Time, Lawrence Wright (The New Yorker, 1 Juni 2009)

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