Stephen Glover: The Big Apple’s Gray Lady is not on her death bed just yet

The New York Times is almost certainly the most famous paper in the world. It may be pompous and self-regarding, but it is also authoritative, serious minded and generally fair. Even journalists who dislike its liberal world view tend to respect it, and would be sorry if it disappeared.

Such an eventuality is, believe it or not, being considered by some media watchers in the United States. In common with other American newspapers, the New York Times has taken a battering over the past year by the side of which our problems in this country resemble an April shower. Its share price crashed after the company announced that profits in the quarter to last July had fallen by 82 per cent from a year previously. The paper has been hit, as have other titles in the US, by declining readership and plummeting classified advertising revenue, on which metropolitan American papers have a much greater dependence than do British national titles.

The company may now be in danger of defaulting on some $400m of debt in May. Given present financial conditions, and its weakening financial position, it may struggle to restructure. In October it stated that “based on the conversations we have had with lenders, we expect that we will be able to manage our debt and credit obligations as they mature”.

“Expect” doesn’t sound wholly confident, does it?

The company’s financial problems explain its decision, announced last week, to put a daily display advertisement across six columns at the bottom of the front page. According to one estimate, this could produce nearly $30m a year in extra revenue. If it is only half that amount, it will be handy, though scarcely enough to boost the paper’s fortunes. It is a |nice irony that our own Times upset some of its readers in 1966 when it

took classified advertising off the front page and replaced it with editorial. The New York Times is causing similar ructions by introducing a front page advertisement at the expense of editorial.

Could it really go bust? It hardly seems likely in the foreseeable |future. It could sell the Boston Globe, though that might not fetch very |much in the present climate, or its share in its new headquarters in |New York. Even after cutbacks, |its staffing levels remain much |

higher than those of any British newspaper, and more economies could surely be made that would |not undermine it. Perhaps the most likely outcome is that the Sulzberger |family, which controls the New York Times, its ancestor Adolph Ochs |having acquired the title in 1898, |will be forced to sell out to more predatory capitalists.

It is certainly possible to overdo the pessimism, though. A good example of this tendency is an article by Michael Hirschorn in the current Atlantic Monthly. The piece foresees the death of the print edition, disregarding the fact that an internet-only version would be unable to create the revenue to support more than a |fraction of the New York Times’s |present editorial staff. He also |incorrectly asserts that “most readers of the Times are consuming it online” with 20 million unique users in October in comparison with the “mere million readers a day” reading the print edition. He is confusing buyers with readers. Some three million people a day read the New York Times, which is still far greater than its online readership.

Many of us like to see the overmighty vanquished. When the New York Times was all-powerful, it was easy to resent it. Now that it is struggling, one realises how much the disappearance of this great newspaper would matter.

Could media bias over Gaza even itself out in the end?

I have been deluged with “evidence” purporting to show that the media are biased either in favour of the Israelis or the Palestinians in their coverage of Gaza.

Arab Media Watch complains that the Israeli ambassador in London, Ron Proser, is often in the media, whereas the Palestinian representative, Manuel Hassassian, is barely heard of. Proser was appointed at the end of 2007, and up until the end of 2008 Arab Media Watch has found 40 newspaper items either by him or quoting him, whereas Hassassian was only mentioned twice during the same period, in both cases by The Guardian. I have heard or seen Proser several times on the radio or television during the past week without catching a glimpse of Hassassian.

A fair point, it would seem. And yet on the other side of the argument the journalist Tom Gross has amassed many examples of what he regards as anti-Israeli bias in the media. Two stand out. He writes that the publicly-owned French television network France 2 has admitted that footage it showed last Tuesday of destruction allegedly caused by the Israeli air force was, in fact, taken from an incident in 2005 in which Gaza civilians were killed by an explosion caused by Hamas.

Gross also claims that Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor in |Gaza much quoted in the media last week enumerating grisly civilian casualties, is a Hamas sympathiser. Immediately after the 9/11 attacks in New York, according to Gross, Dr Gilbert told the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet that the attacks were “morally right”. “Terror is a bad weapon, but you have to look at the context.” He is not, it would seem, an impartial observer.

Is it possible that both sides are right, and that far from there being a uniform bias, it sometimes works one way, and sometimes another?

Oxford seems to love Rupert but hate Maggie

Oxford University famously refused to award Margaret Thatcher an honorary doctorate in 1985. The dons objected to cuts in higher education. One may surmise that many disliked her for wider political reasons.

So it is a little difficult to make sense of a piece of information I recently stumbled across. Rupert Murdoch’s funding of a professorship of language and communication at Oxford, as well as a visiting professorship of broadcast media, is well known. Less well known is his endowment of three lectureships in the department of English Literature and Language. Your daughter or son studying English at Oxford may be taught by a don paid for by Mr Murdoch.

I personally have no qualms. Let Oxford get its money from wherever it wants, so long as it is legal, though it is slightly disturbing that Murdoch’s representative should help select the professor of language and communication. But it does Oxford no credit to take money from such a culturally controversial figure as Murdoch while snubbing Margaret Thatcher.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Senior Web Developer - C# / ASP.NET - London - £55K

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Web Deve...

SThree: Internal Recruitment Consultant (In-House)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Are you an ambitious, money moti...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer - Peterborough - £18,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Manager / Account Director – DSP / Ad tech / RTB

£50,000- £70,000 + commission : Sphere Digital Recruitment: This DSP is an onl...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower