(The final three paragraphs were accidentally omitted from the original post. The full text is below.)
Earlier this week, the Boston Globe ran what was virtually an
epitaph, a very long epitaph for itself. The author blamed the
paper's owner--the New York Times Company--for most of its
troubles. There was a lot of nostalgia for the old publishing
family, the Taylors, who sold the newspaper to the Sulzbergers.
(The Times is actually a public company dominated by the family because
of two classes of stock, one with power, one without. The
Sulzbergers own the controlling stock. But the family trust
is being ripped apart: its beneficiaries no longer are getting
dividends.) In any case, the Taylors had the Boston paper in good
times and they sold out for more than $1 billion. Now, the Globe is
in torment, like the Times itself.
But so are almost all of the newspapers in the country. Even the Washington Post Company, whose other properties include the Kaplan educational network, a big money-maker. But Donny Graham, one of my first students, has warned his stockholders of many troubles ahead. The Financial Times story that includes this bad news also reports that Newsweek is having a relaunch. Frankly, I think that the tired weekly is actually trying to become The New Republic. Go ahead and try!
One ballast on the Washington Post's board is Warren Buffett. His mere presence probably reassured investors. No longer. The greatest success story in modern American capitalism has been having trouble, mucho trouble. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, has lost its high credit ratings, and his stock (in both Class A and Class B) is way down, by a third when I last looked, having reached lows at about half of the top.
Back to the Globe and the Times. Not content to have done its own death knell, Friday's Globe reported worse news for the Times even before it was announced: "Analysts braced for bleak news in Times Co. first-quarter report." The quarterly financial accounting is scheduled to be made public Tuesday. There was actually a touch of Schadenfreude in the article.
Now, the Times is actually the most significant journalistic enterprise,
probably in the world and certainly in the English-reading world. I don't
believe that anything the Times did could have avoided the present disaster. And, frankly, I am relieved that it is cutting out some
of its silly special sections, like Escapes. There is no way to prove what
I am about to write. Still, my guess is these special sections are really seen
as pretend magazines. When readers want to read a magazine they buy a
The op-ed page is also increasingly frivolous. And preachy. And badly written besides.
One more point, predictable from me, I suppose. The obsessive rampage of the Times against Israel on the op-ed and editorial pages these days (and sometimes in the news and culture pages, as well) is so insufferable that the loyalty of many readers and not just Jewish readers, who I'm sure are a significant part of the readership, has been very much on the wane. Historically, no one has ever been able to count on the Times to pick up the editorial cudgel for even terribly threatened Jews. The paper simply couldn't find much room for news of the Holocaust and never wrote a lead editorial about it. Laurel Leff's book, Buried in the Times: The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper, tells the shameful story. Now the Times has Roger Cohen who tells us that the Jews of Iran are secure and that the Israelis have no reason to fear Muslim extremism. Although it was owned by a Jewish family, the paper was always hostile to Zionism. The publisher these days is an Episcopalian, through his mother. Who knows what he thinks about Zionism, Israel, the Jewish people and their survival? But the paper's readers know.