The latest gloomy news from journalism's battered front lines is that the prestigious New York Times (NYT) is laying off 100 staff. Paper-and-ink newspapers are in deep trouble, there's no doubt about that. But the NYT, as comprehensive as its news coverage sometimes is, is hardly in a position to offer the real story on its current woes, anymore than a psychoanalyst is able to objectively analyze him or herself.
What's bad for the NYT is not necessarily bad for journalism any more than what is good for the NYT is necessarily good for journalism. But with more than 100 newspapers closing down last year, including iconic newsprint papers in vibrant cities such as Boston, Seattle and Denver, troubles at the NYT can be seen in a general perspective as part of a trend.
With advertising revenue plummeting, and real estate losing value by the hour, the NYT is in a free fall accelerated in part by its own greed.
But it is also a victim of a more general downward trend; American newspaper readership is down 10 percent across the board in just the past year alone. The moribund economy, with no relief in sight, is leaving many a good newspaper exposed like a beached whale, stranded as capital ebbs away with the low tide.
As newspapers flap about trying to breathe another day, perchance return to familiar deep waters, Internet news aggregators soar, circling above like birds of prey for whom the shifting tide is an opportunity waiting to be picked.
Internet delivery of news is infinitely faster and more flexible. It saves millions of trees from the paper pulp mill and cuts down on the need for noisy delivery trucks and back-breaking labor, so what's not to like about it?
For a brief fleeting moment, consumers can have their cake and eat it to. Newspapers do the heavy lifting, while Internet news sites spread the information around for free, "lite" and easy.