“Each day, barring labor strikes or hydrogen bombs, [The New York Times] would appear in 11,464 cities throughout the nation and in all the capitals around the world, 50 copies going to the White House, 39 copies to Moscow, a few smuggled into Beijing, and a thick Sunday edition to the foreign minister in Taiwan, because he required the Times as necessary proof of the Earth’s existence, a barometer of its pressure, an assessor of its sanity. If the World did indeed still exist, he knew it would be duly recorded each day in the Times.” ~ Gay Talese, The Kingdom of Power
By many, The New York Times is heavily regarded as the quintessential outlet for journalistic truth – the barometer by which all other reputable news agencies set their standards and even their front pages. And despite the economic downturn of recent years, the emergence of new mediums and the heavy decline in print readership and subsequent ad revenues, The Times has survived, led by overworked and underpaid advocates of democracy and change.
I myself have balked at the idea that The Times can endure this changing landscape, soon to be replaced by the Huffingtons’ of this world. As Arianna put it, “I was not around when the printing press was invented but if I were around I would imagine that the people dealing with stone tablets would be making a similar argument.”
What I have come to realize is that this story of a dying medium, one too stuck in its ways to adapt to a changing time, is not by any means, nor will it ever be, the story of The New York Times. This is also not a story of people’s distrust with the mainstream media –a distrust perpetuated by the 24 hour news networks and media conglomerates whose struggle to survive over the last decade has effectively destroyed the integrity that they boast about in their company slogans.
Rather, this is a story about critical thought. “News organizations that deploy resources to really gather information are essential to a functioning democracy”, said Bill Keller, former Executive Editor of The New York Times. It is a story about an aggregate of all of the facts and Tweets and blogs and op-eds and commentary condensed into a single article and written with hours of seemingly un-biased research from sources sometimes deeper rooted in a story than anyone else.
A blogger in his parent’s basement writing a hard-hitting op-ed about the Obama Administration can seem much more efficient than a 24 hour news operation with hundreds of field reporters across the globe. A photo or a 140 character message from a local embedded in a civil war in Libya can seem much more real than any journalist covering the story from a desk in New York.
What we fail to realize is that a revolution independent of media is still a revolution but a story without context, without critical thought and research into its legitimacy is just that, a story. And in a world where more data is created every two days than from the beginning of human history until 2003, true, unbiased analysis of a story is more important than ever.
The story of the New York Times, the story that may someday grace your tablet or smart window or electronic paper screen further immortalizing one of the last genuine journalistic endeavours of our time, is one of integrity, dignity, perseverance and overall critical thought. An understanding that still, in an age where news is delivered as it happens, many of the stories that we read or hear today, whether it be on a 24 hour news network, an online news aggregate or David Carr’s Twitter account, are propagated by The New York Times. And it is the passion for telling a story as it should be told that has helped this print house survive two World Wars, a Great Depression, and the invention of the telephone, radio, television, personal computers, the Internet and mobile phones. Today the World does indeed still exist, and the New York Times is still the one telling its story.