Saturday, August 3, 2013

news for sale

The New York Times has agreed to sell The Boston Globe to the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, John Henry, for $70 million. The Times acquired the Globe twenty years ago for $1.1 billion.

Everyone is trying to put a bright spin on things: The Times will be able to concentrate on its core brand; the Globe will not change its sports coverage ... everyone has a rainbow to sell.

Once upon a time, newspapers were credited with a Fourth Estate fearlessness and devotion to the public they served. Sure, there were scandal sheets, but in general, there was a sense that newspapers filled a real need in any decent democracy. Without a watchdog, the public was screwed.

But now, drip by entertainment drop, the news gives way to Internet opinion and shiny celebrity. There is a diminishing sense that the news is especially consequential. Check out the number of local crime stories -- the easy part of news gathering -- if you have some doubt. Enter the monied interests which for so long had felt the lash or luxury of news coverage. How better to burnish their positions and policies?

It's not that the monied interests were not always a part of the industry. But the extent to which newspapers and television might be manipulated for agitation and propaganda purposes was less apparent. Investigations that took time and persistence and, yes, money, were honored.

As an excuse, I guess it's understandable that anyone might point to the Internet, but there is something hollow about the excuse: Is there nothing to be said for the need for news? Based on the cases of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, perhaps not.
The Globe isn't the only newspaper to see a huge drop in its price at sale time.
In April 2012, Philadelphia's two largest newspapers sold for $55 million, a fraction of the $515 million paid by a group of investors in 2006. The buyers of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News included influential New Jersey Democrat George Norcross III, former New Jersey Nets owner Lewis Katz and cable TV mogul H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest.


  1. Human history is the story of many swings from renaissance to dark age, from tightly controlled power to experiments in liberty. I thought this video suggested where we're going at this time.

  2. It felt a bit like intellectual water-boarding, but that was interesting, Charlie. Thanks.