apocalyptic hay is being made of Michael Hirschorn's article in this month's Atlantic. (No, not the white-anxiety-bait article. That other one.)
Hirschorn claims, with typical hyperbole, that there's a nonzero chance the Grey Lady will be dead by May. I'll leave the dissection of that dire pronouncement to cooler heads than mine. But if you managed to wade through the gloom, Hirschorn makes another intriguing--and oddly hopeful--prediction: that journalism could be saved by severing itself from its dumber Siamese twin, Newsish Fluff.
Under the guise of "service," The Times has been on a steady march toward temporarily profitable lifestyle fluff. Escapes! Styles! T magazine(s)! For a time, this fluff helped underwrite the foreign bureaus, enterprise reporting, and endless five-part Pulitzer Prize aspirants. But it has gradually hollowed out journalism's brand, by making the newspaper feel disposable.
Funding hard news with fluff is a time-honored strategy--done best and most inimitably by Vanity Fair, which is fond of wrapping lengthy investigative news pieces in the pearlescent hide of Scarlett Johansson. Is it possible that its day is done?
...Over the long run, a world in which journalism is no longer weighed down by the need to fold an omnibus news product into a larger lifestyle-tastic package might turn out to be one in which actual reportage could make the case for why it matters, and why it might even be worth paying for. The best journalists will survive, and eventually thrive.
Imagine. A future in which reporters would generate actual news. A day no Women would Do. And forty acres and a unicorn for every unemployed member of the IRE.
The prospect of reading the NYT of a morning without encountering Upper-Class Twits like these is indeed a heady one. But I suspect Hirschorn is drinking his own Kool-Aid. Who is it that's going to pay for the revival of real honest-to-God news again? Advertisers? *coughs* Internet news-readers? *spits coffee all over self* Hirschorn points out that HuffPo has raised a bunch of money. Yep. I think Pets.com once did, too.
Bear in mind as well that this Received Wisdom is from the Atlantic, whose idea of a clever strategy for surviving the Great Magazine Die-Off is to just keep putting Barack Obama's shiny, hopey face on the cover.
(Then again, the Atlantic is still publishing, while its erstwhile associate, the all-fluff 02138, has kicked the bucket. Maybe there's hope after all.)