Eric Alterman is a liberal blogger and talking head. The New Yorker is the ultimate establishmentarian publication. One would expect both to be staunch defenders of the informational status quo ante: the world before all the digital stuff cluttered the unprotected mind of the public. In that world, the newspaper was king.
Yet here is Alterman, writing in the New Yorker, and pretty much writing off newspapers:
Three centuries after the appearance of Franklin’s Courant, it no longer requires a dystopic imagination to wonder who will have the dubious distinction of publishing America’s last genuine newspaper. Few believe that newspapers in their current printed form will survive. Newspaper companies are losing advertisers, readers, market value, and, in some cases, their sense of mission at a pace that would have been barely imaginable just four years ago. Bill Keller, the executive editor of the Times, said recently in a speech in London, “At places where editors and publishers gather, the mood these days is funereal. Editors ask one another, ‘How are you?,’ in that sober tone one employs with friends who have just emerged from rehab or a messy divorce.” Keller’s speech appeared on the Web site of its sponsor, the Guardian, under the headline “NOT DEAD YET.”
Blogs normally end with a ritual “Read the whole thing.” In this case, don’t. After some interesting and well-researched speculation on the future of news, Alterman goes a bit off the rails and starts to worry about who will save people from torture once journalists go extinct. So spare yourself the trouble.
Instead, go to the “State of the news media 2008” site, and look under “Magazines.” The New Yorker isn’t doing badly, but the fate of the magazine follows just a few steps behind that of the newspaper. Both are going over the brink. In the age of Sametime and text messaging, who will pay to wait a week for something labeled “news”? And, in that case, how long will it take before even the august New Yorker writes its own epitaph?