Some sobering, sad news from The Washington Post:

The New York Times Co. said last night that it is notifying federal authorities of its plans to shut down The Boston Globe, raising the possibility that New England’s most storied newspaper could cease to exist within weeks.

Why should this concern us? Because — and despite what some local protagonists might insist — the problems that beset newspapers in the United States (and for that matter Britain, Europe and wherever else) are by and large the problems that confront papers in Australia, especially our reputable, embattled broadsheets: falling circulation, declining revenue, abundant and increasingly competitive information alternatives.

If The Boston Globe can die — The Boston Globe! — then what other titles might succumb? The loss of quality papers is one thing, but there is another side to this. We have to ask ourselves what papers are now likely to survive, and why? We may not be watching the death of the newspaper, but what looks increasingly possible is that we are witness to the slow snuffing of quality reporting, investigation in the public interest and the air of calm, reasoned discussion that is the great, civilising gift of a quality newspaper.

What will replace them? Which are the cockroach titles that will survive this nuclear media apocalypse, which will thrive after prestige titles surrender the field?

Presumably it will be the sort of populist drivel represented in this market by the Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph. Here are their front pages today, on a morning after the federal government made what one might have imagined was a fairly significant adjustment to its posture on a significant issue of public interest:

And this is what those papers did with this story, back (funny coincidence?) on page seven in each:

These newspapers represent an alternate reality of their own making, a reality they conjure every day and in their own narrow commercial and often ideological interest. And these are the newspapers that will survive. Vale The Boston Globe, and heaven help the rest of us.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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