With all the fervour of tribesmen waving a talisman to ward off evil spirits, the authors repeatedly praise the outstanding quality of the NYT’s journalism. A touch smug, an outsider might think, but hardly controversial. But nowhere do the authors ask what journalism now is. The gulf between the information-poor world when the NYT was founded in 1851 and the information-saturated world of the 21st century is vast. If the NYT intends to go on reporting the world, which might seem a plausible guess, how do they know what kind of reporting is going to be found valuable by their readers in 5, 10 or 25 years’ time? There’s no question that the journalists of the NYT find what they produce valuable and they are joined by a large number of readers. But they must know – although this is barely mentioned in the report – that they are staring at falling print advertising income and weak digital income. There’s a reason why the NYT, currently worth around $2bn, is now valued at a quarter the sum it was a decade ago. And that reason isn’t the global financial crisis. The lack of any curiosity about what journalism might be runs parallel to a huge misunderstanding about what digital technology does for journalism.
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