By paulgillin | May 9, 2008 - 7:29 am - Posted in blogging, BusinessModel, Journalism, Local news, Murdoch, NewMedia, Newspapers

Nick Denton says the New York Times should abandon the news-opinion divide and let its reporters and editors insert commentary into their stories. They already do it by quoting sources sympathetic to their point of view, so why not stop pretending and inject a little color into a paper whose impartiality has become a liability? The arrival of blogs at the Times has effectively undermined any pretense of objectivity already and management’s efforts to clarify the wall between opinion and news look increasingly flimsy.

Denton is echoing points that Eric Alterman made a bit less pugnaciously in his New Yorker piece of two months ago. Newspapers started as vehicles for publishers to express their opinions. The concept of an impartial press is a recent phenomenon. Readers are smart enough to make up their own minds about what to believe. What’s wrong with opinion?

Jeff Jarvis agrees with Denton, noting that Times blogs have given him the opportunity to get the perspective of reporters whose work he’s read for years. These people know a lot about the subjects they cover. Why bottle up that perspective behind an artificial veil of neutrality.

Business Blues

Rupert Murdoch took an early victory lap, declaring that he’ll be the chosen owner of Newsday by next week, despite the existence of a richer bid from Cablevision and the likelihood that Mortimer Zuckerman will raise his offer. Murdoch pledged to continue Newsday’s commitment to strong local coverage and underlined his confidence by announcing a surprise doubling of the price of the New York Post to 50 cents. The E&P account also refers to Murdoch’s plans to build a single printing facility to publish Newsday, the Post and The Wall Street Journal. Zuckerman’s Daily News will have its hands full competing with those economies of scale.


With the newspaper industry suffering from the flu, Sun Times Media Group (STMG) has lapsed into pneumonia. The publisher reported a $35.8 million loss in the first quarter, compared to a loss of $4.8 million a year ago. Advertising revenue fell 12.6%, which is considerably more than declines at most papers. We wrote earlier about speculation that the Chicago Sun-Times may be the next big metro daily to fold, in part because of factors that transcend the industry’s crisis. STMG said it’s on track to cut expenses by $50 million by June 30 and is exploring strategic alternatives.


Tribune Co. posted an 8% drop in revenue, but the results were helped by growth in the broadcast sector. Newspaper revenue was off 11%. More worrisome is that cash flow shrank to $200 million from $239 million a year ago. That’s not good for a company that has a big debt payment looming at the end of the year.

And Finally…

  • The Newark Star Ledger and hyperlocal website Baristanet.com are teaming up to launch a print product, a guide to Montclair, N.J. The magazine goes out to 70,000 readers next week. This is one example of how print/online partnerships can be win-win propositions.
  • The San Diego Union-Tribune fired three top people who directed the company’s online products, but apparently didn’t do it very well. San Diego Weekly Reader says the trio positioned the online unit internally as competitive with the print news team, which didn’t do wonders for morale. There was also a disastrous radio venture.
  • When all else fails, pray. That’s the mission of PrayingForPapers.com, a site that “is just asking that anyone who cares about their fellow journalists devote part of their prayer time to ‘Pray for Papers.'” The site’s tag line is an excerpt from Exodus that betrays the enormity of the industry’s task. (Via E&P)

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