Page One- Inside The NY Times (2011)

Page One- Inside the NY Times (2011)

Date: January 27th, 2016                                                                                                  By Imman Merdanovic

Inside the NY Times (2011). Photo Credits, Page One- Inside The NY Times Movie.
Inside the NY Times (2011). Photo Credits, Page One- Inside The NY Times Movie.

We have all heard it: the means of reporting information has shifted from a linear process in the traditional newspapers to a nonlinear process in online reporting.  The tremendous progress in technology and devices such as Kindle and iPad have forever changed the concept of traditional news reporting, with over 50% of Americans now citing the Internet as a main source for obtaining national and international news. Getting news nowadays is easier, more engaging and more interactive than ever. And while the general public continues to enjoy the perks of accessing daily news with just one click, traditional media outlets like the New York Times have faced an era of indefinite uncertainty and likely bankruptcy. Collapse of advertising, the end of gatekeeping, new technologies, sensationalism, and corporate ownership have created unimaginable economic circumstances for companies like the Times, which have altogether made it a lesser paper.

Obituary columns are nowadays full of news about the death of American newspapers. In fact, at the end of 2009 the NY Times was forced to eliminate 100 newsrooms jobs through buyouts and layoffs. The collapse of advertising happened faster than anyone could have imagined, with a 30% decline in advertising revenue in 2009, and a 17% decline in 2008. Same year, the Times created a Media Desk to report on changes in the media industry. Currently, about 17mil people visit the NY Times website every month, to see some of its new 100 videos and 80 blogs uploaded monthly. Yet, one thing is clear, the profit nowadays goes to the aggregators of news — those who steal big works and  make profits by selling advertising space on the website. Although this is not the way to go, one thing is clear— this is a competition that only acknowledge the survival of the fittest.

Print newspaper revenue 1950-2011. Photo Credits, Newspaper Association of America.
Print newspaper revenue 1950-2011. Photo Credits, Newspaper Association of America.

In addition to technological advances, there have been so-called “intelligence agencies for the people” like WikiLeaks, which have also contributed to the diminishing of the traditional newspapers. In 2010  WikiLeaks released secret documents and a video of the US aerial attack on Baghdad, that would shake the media establishments  around the world. What WikiLeaks did is they simply created a Youtube channel and waited for the video to go viral, thus showing that one does not need to be a big name anymore to make a big impact. By 2015, WikiLeaks has published more than 10 million documents and associated analyses. Assange, an editor for Wiki Leaks refers to it as “a giant library of the world’s most persecuted documents”. Similarly, the Pentagon Papers have been another such outlet that has shaken the world of traditional media outlets. The Pentagon Papers are secret reports about the Vietnam war leaked by military analyst Daniel E. EllsbergCredible or not, these outlets have sparked the fire and gotten our attention. They were faster, meaner and hotter, thus altering the social role of papers like the Times in a non respectable way.

The social role that the Times have been playing in the U.S./global society in the past decades has undoubtedly changed.The Times used to be a powerful institution run by men who always tried to be fair. It was by far the most trusted source of information and the copies of it were sought after not only domestically but abroad as well. In fact, over time emerged the concept known as the NY Times effect— other papers imitating the Times. This role of the Times is now being challenged by startups like VICE magazine, which offers investigative journalism and social commentary. Big companies like CNN pay VICE to tell them how to be meaner and faster than anybody else.  In other words, VICE offers more edgy type of reporting, they don’t care about facts, they want impressions. Above all, VICE is controversial,  provocative and far more commercial than NY Times and other similar newspapers. After all, this is what the millennials want. We grew up in a different age. We did not base our morning routine on flipping the pages of a newspaper while having a cup of coffee. Instead, we spend hours on 9Gag, then hours recovering from “thumbititis”, the red blister on the underside of the thumb.

Furthermore, apart from changing billions of lives and making access to daily news easier than ever, the emerging of digital media has as also altered the coverage of the U.S. presidential politics. Sending journalists on board with the president is costly. The journalists are doing less now and presidential politics is often captured by ordinary people with a video camera. Leaked videos on Youtube or a personal Tweet have taken control over New York Times’ extensive cover page.

And while the Times have begun adjusting to the new digital era, the question remains whether this establishment can ever go out of business? The answer is unclear and there is a collective denial about what is going on. However, one thing is clear— the public trusts them. People are becoming more aware of what it would mean to lose the Times. When asked about his opinion on the rumors, David Carr, an American columnist and a respectable man at NY Times,  jokes: “Are we gonna toss out the Times to get back and see what Facebook turns out? I don’t think so.”

David Carr's impression of Online media taking over. Photo Credits, Page One Movie.
David Carr’s impression of Online media taking over. Photo Credits, Page One- Inside The NY Times Movie.

Traditional media now compete with the Internet for revenue. They are concerned as more people decide to search for free news instead pay for subscriptions.

 More than 85% of the factual information on the Internet comes from traditional news outlets that invested its resources in getting that information.

Additionally, Carr disapproves of any arguments that even vaguely speak of the Times falling down on the job, as, according to him, by doing so you are underestimating years worth of work and some really important events such as reporting from Afghanistan and Iraq, if we ignore Miller’s embroilment in controversy after her coverage of Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Now, we ask ourselves, can non-profit websites for investigative journalism save news reporting? Such organizations can certainly make an impact by making information available to the public, but to make stories possible and credible, they still need someone on the ground for credible reporting. For-profit investigative reporters are limited in their ability to do quality reporting, as they need more resources. New models like Pro Publica intend to execute the work of journalism in the public interest, which is essential for democracy. Democracy entails access to information and it is believed that it cannot survive without press/media that are free to report all matters of public concern – without facing any political censorship and economic pressures. In fact, according to Bernstein, an investigative journalist who did the majority of the most important news reporting on the Watergate scandal leading to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, : “News organizations that deploy resources to really gather information are essential to a functioning democracy. It just doesn’t work if people do not know.”

Lastly, the crisis of the traditional newspapers implies the need of a revision and a change of philosophy in order to be up to date with the current trends and demands of the public. However, that philosophy should in no way, shape, or form resemble that of Sam Zell— a business magnate who brought about the biggest bankruptcy in history, that of the Tribune Company, after witnessing the creation of a hostile workplace and a drastic raise in bonuses to the executives. As for New York Times, they seem to be well on their way with nearly 60 active blogs with topics including politics, science and technology, sports, entertainment, education and families. Traditional media has had competition from newer media for years and survived. We can only believe that the same will be true as we move into the future. Otherwise, lets hope that convergence will unite traditional and modern and stop the era of  media decay.

Cited:

Bender, J., Davenport, L., Drager, M., Fedler, F. (2011) Reporting for Digital Media. Oxford University Press.

Page One- Inside the NY Times. (2011). [Movie].

Print newspaper revenue 1950-2011. News Paper Association of America. [Picture}.

Wikipedia, Tribune Media. (2012). Retrieved on January 26th, 2015.