There’s good news out there for conservatives — the longtime liberal-globalist mouthpiece known as The New York Times is edging closer to going out of business.
Well, perhaps not out of business completely. But its news operation is clearly taking a hit as lately, the paper known in New York as the Gray Lady announced it will soon be laying off half of its copy editors as well as other unspecified staff.
A recent walkout by members of the Times’ union took place on June 29, with reporters carrying intentionally misspelled signs reading “This wsa not edited” in a symbolic gesture of what they fear may be commonplace if the expected cuts are carried out. “They say cutbacks, we say fight back!” was one chant heard by passersby who walked past the Times’ Renzo Piano-designed headquarters building at the corner of Manhattan’s 40th Street and Eighth Avenue. “No editors, no peace!” was also heard as the brief protest carried on (some say it lasted no longer than 20 minutes, during which time Times staffers refused to talk to various interviewers). The noted lack of energy of the Times employees seemed to reflect the spirit of the workplace, leading one to believe that confidence at the paper may be as low as its revenues.
Many of these workers recently signed a letter to the paper’s editorial management stating that any hopes that the paper’s journalistic standards can remain the same with half the number of its copy editors was “dumbfoundingly unrealistic.” They identified an upcoming era at the Times as “a cruelly drawn-out period in which we suspend major financial arrangements and life decisions and carry an ever-growing kernel of fear.” The letter goes on to admit that “morale is low throughout the newsroom, and many of us, from editors to reporters to photo editors to support staff, are angry, embittered and scared of losing our jobs.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is not the first downsizing that the paper has experienced. Since the Times moved into its shiny new headquarters building in 2007, the paper’s floor-area footprint has shrunk from 750,000 square feet to 628,000 square feet as it’s been forced to rent out more and more of its former offices to other organizations in an ongoing struggle to meet its expenses.
A $250 million loan from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim in 2009 helped boost the paper’s financial condition, but that seems to have been a temporary stopgap measure. In December, the paper vacated eight floors of space to help offset its costs.
The fact is, Times staffers may be ignorant of the financial realities facing the paper of record in New York and elsewhere as the news business — particularly the printed part of it — is not what it used to be. Steep declines in subscriptions — which have shot up in costs to over $500 per year for newspapers delivered to one’s doorstep in 2017 — along with equally precipitous drops in ad revenues and newsstand purchases have forced major changes at the paper.
Page count is down from a high of 1,612 in 1987 to nearly one-third of that today and the paper’s physical size — once proudly referred to as a “large broadsheet” was reduced in 2007. The average age of Times readers is now 60, even as the content of the paper has tried in vain (and some say not nearly hard enough) to appeal to a younger audience.
But not that many millennials can afford $500 per year for the printed version of the paper or even $300 for the digital version. Those in the know get around the Times’ 10-articles-per-month digital paywall by simply Googling the title of the article they seek to read, and using this method, they can access unlimited content for free. As concerned as the paper may be about its finances, it still desires to have cachet among academic readers by making virtually all of its content freely accessible via Google.
It’s said that only one in five Americans today reads a daily printed newspaper, down from one in two in the early 2000s. But that’s not from a lack of a desire to find out what’s in the news; on the contrary, more Americans are informed about current affairs than ever before, but much of this is due to the ubiquity of the Internet, and as everyone knows, not all Internet content is created equally.
Lately, the Times has a different problem other than the graying of its readership or the cost of its subscriptions. The issue of “fake news” has cropped up time and again as the clear liberal bias of the journal has been proven repeatedly. In 2016, it got to the point where the paper’s publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. had to apologize in a letter sent to subscribers for wrongly forecasting the outcome of the presidential election (the Times had predicted Hillary Clinton had a 93 percent chance of winning 18 days before Election Day).
The letter begged forgiveness and asked readers not to cancel their subscriptions — a sign if there ever was one that the paper’s editorial content was firmly in the control of forces that were at the very least prejudiced and at the worst probably far outside the offices of the organization’s executive editors.
It’s the latter scenario that has some academic researchers, such as media critic Camille Paglia, outraged that the quality of the once-respected paper has fallen so far as to destroy its journalistic integrity in the name of either meager financial support, a few extra ad dollars, or both. But clearly, whatever support the paper is getting from such sources — if any — is not enough to counteract the forces of the marketplace.
In a sign that “fake news” is taking its toll on the Times, a lawsuit was filed recently by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in the wake of the paper publishing an editorial falsely linked her to the 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Like news network CNN, whose newly relaxed journalistic standards recently led to the firing of three of its employees, the Times had to quickly issue a retraction, but the damage to its reputation was already done.
It should now be increasingly clear to the Times’ leadership that the strategy of fake news is driving readers away, rather than attracting them. If Sulzberger’s apology letter in 2016 had been sincere, the Times should have immediately changed its strategy of simply printing whatever stories the Democrats wanted to see in print. Journalistic skepticism and objectivity is one thing, but such an obvious propensity to follow one particular political agenda — no matter what the business cost — has had immediate and terrible consequences.
Surveys show that Americans’ distrust of the “mainstream media” (and within this category, the Times is still seen in an enviable pinnacle position) is at an all-time high. The paper’s open hatred of the nation’s president and members of his administration — both in the bias of its articles and in the op-eds from Times executives and invited outsiders — has left a nasty taste on the palates of readers and ex-readers, who have gone on to discover that, lo and behold, there are now actually other news sources that lie less, cover stories better and appeal more to a younger demographic than the venerable NYT.
Whether Times leadership will be able to right this rapidly sinking ship is unclear; for now, the response of Managing Editor Joseph Kahn and Executive Editor Dean Baquet to the aforementioned staffers’ missive was just to say that the paper “takes [employees’] concerns seriously” and that it intends to “monitor the [upcoming] transition closely.”
In the meantime, perhaps an enterprising journalist might take the initiative to publish an “NYT Deathwatch” blog that could be updated regularly in the coming months as it seems the end of at least the printed version of the Gray Lady may be closer than people realize.