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article imageOp-Ed: What do The New York Times' losses tell us about good journalism?

By Michael Krebs     Nov 3, 2013 in Internet
The New York Times just posted its 12th consecutive quarterly advertising revenue decline, claiming a "complex and fragmented" market is to blame — but is it something else?
One of my favorite topics to address in a discussion with an advertiser is this notion of the public trust. It is one of those topics — just think about Snowden and the NSA — that is fresh and current, and this makes it a strikingly disturbing matter, and one that is stubbornly abstract.
Reddit's controversial decision to ban the Huffington Post, Salon, Gawker, and Mother Jones from the Reddit political news channel — citing "bad journalism" — offers interesting bravery in defending the public trust. As Slate's Will Oremus reported, the Reddit moderators apologized for their handling of the announcement while maintaining the need “to reduce the number of blogspam submissions and sensationalist titles” and to remove “bad journalism.”
Bad journalism. It seems like such a subjective conclusion. But is it? Are we not inundated with opinion masquerading as journalism? In the enduring political polarization that is the current American landscape, of course we are.
But what is happening to "good journalism?" I define "good" as award-winning. The National Magazine Awards and the Pulitzer Prize offer some meaningful guideposts on "good journalism." I should disclose that being a Washington Post Company employee, I have had the honor of representing both a multiple Pulitzer Prize-winning property in the Washington Post and a multiple National Magazine Award winner in Slate. I have had the pleasure of living amongst "good" journalists.
But The New York Times, one of the crown jewels of journalism, at least from the undisputed position of having won more Pulitzer Prizes than any other publication in history, is facing an interesting commercial-side challenge: they are losing.
According to an analysis from Paid Content, The New York Times delivered its 12th consecutive quarterly revenue decline — in both print and digital advertising sales. More troubling for the struggling newspaper concern, the digital pay wall previously seen as a success is now demonstrating stagnation.
Revenue for The New York Times, across both print and digital, was $140 million — the lowest it has been since 1998. Executives for the company blamed "an increasingly complex and fragmented digital advertising marketplace."
But is there more to the narrative here? As new generations — accustomed to social media threads and dynamic mobile platforms — consume news, do they opt-in for a "good" journalism experience? Is it the lumbering adaptation of The New York Times' commercial side to the market fragmentation that is to blame, or is the fragmentation a reflection of the demographics on the ground?
In this environment, a Pulitzer Prize is a dish towel. The meal has been meticulously crafted and served and voraciously consumed, and the plates and the glasses and the silverware have been run through the machine. The towel, askew on its ring, says nothing. And this is a development.
Good journalism needs good commercial-side leadership, endowed with the kind of courage, conviction, vision, and perspective that defines the journalism they are trusted with representing. Good commercial representation defends the public trust, and it is this intertwining of purpose and of objective that is often overlooked.
And as for the consumption patterns in the emerging generations, they will follow the innovations of the nimble. Good journalism must be fed through modern arteries. Multi-screen adaptations and deliverables are standard now. Social media channels are well developed.
What are we taking to the streets tomorrow?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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