My presence round these here parts has been a bit scarce as of late. There are several reasons for that — it’s hot as all hell; I’m in the midst of trying to plan and coordinate a move; my brother challenged me to get in shape for a 5k — but primary among them is that I’ve spent the last several weeks working on “The Kingdom and the Paywall,” a piece about The New York Times, which appears on the cover of the current issue of for New York magazine.
It was an interesting piece to write. My first book, Hard News, was about the Times, but I hadn’t written anything about the paper since 2008, when I spent some time in their Baghdad bureau for a piece I was writing for Vanity Fair. The genesis of this assignment was my wanting to revisit the paper two years after the collapse of the debt market, which was likely the Times Company’s nadir: For the first time in…well, perhaps ever, there was a good deal of serious, intelligent discussion about the possibility the paper was about to go out of business. Here’s the summary from New York‘s table of contents:
Just two years ago, media observers worried that the New York Times was on the verge of extinction. Now the Gray Lady, helmed by Arthur Sulzberger Jr., has some news for them: It’s paid back Carlos Slim (early), figured out how to create online-only content that people actually want to read, and launched a digital-subscription system that looks like it may even turn a profit.
It’s a bit off-topic from what I typically write about on PLoS, but the larger issues — media accountability, how we decide what qualifies as truth, etc — are ones that readers of this blog should be all too familiar with.