Friday, February 20, 2009

(How) Can the New York Times Save Itself?

Feb 20, 2009. With a stock price now sitting at around $4.00, the Times is surely wondering. The answer: the Old Gray Lady must shed her elitism and enlarge her readership so as to expand her ad base beyond the Tiffany/Rolex set. For details, here's my comment to Paul Krugman's column in today's NYT, which cites a pessimistic Federal Reserve reading of the nation's economic prospects. A worried Krugman then asks, "What’s supposed to end this slump? No doubt this, too, shall pass — but how, and when?"

Here's a way out of the crisis, personalized at the end to help the Old Gray Lady.

February 20, 2009 9:00 am

Looking far ahead, my concern about the current recession or depression is that, once cured or endured, it will only repeat itself, and quickly, given the nanosecond speed of modern finance. It would be bad to see lenders lending and people spending like crazy again.

How can this outcome be avoided? The best way is to make citizens and government RESPONSIVE and ACCOUNTABLE to each other in the formulation and execution of economic policy. This is a task for the nation's interactive mass media, which historically have been used more for political than civic purposes.

The vast majority of Americans, when informed, are capable of understanding the political and economic forces that affect their lives. The trick is to invent lively, creative media formats - civic dialogs - that give citizens an informed voice on the issues that affect their lives.

Such programming of course will entail a sea change in the attitudes of America's governing class towards the governed. Poll after poll confirms that this attitude in recent years has been one of contempt. This change will entail dissipating the last and deepest bias in America's long march to equality: the denial of the native intelligence of human beings and, in our time, a subversion of the Jeffersonian conviction that "I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves."

So where does all this leave the Times? It leaves it free to break the elitist shackles that keep it from teaming up with other media to reach all Americans. Intelligently.

— steve sewall, Chicago

Folks, I confess I still feel way of ahead of the curve on these matters - still a voice crying out in the wilderness - but as the world edges towards depression and as interactive media transform politics worldwide, may I say I do see events catching up real quick with the ideas I've picked up over the years from Jefferson, the Platonic Socrates, Marshall McLuhan, Henry Fielding, W. Edwards Deming, George Gilder, Shelly Palmer and, most recently, John Chambers of CISCO. And from my buddy Rich, despite his being somewhat behind the curve. And from my students at elementary, high school and college levels.

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