All the news that’s free to print: Is charity the newspaper industry’s last, best hope?

“What’s black and white and red all over?” the television interviewer asks Bill Keller, editor-in-chief of the New York Times. Having heard this one before, Mr Keller, without a second thought, replies “A newspaper” — and walks into the sucker punch. “No,” says the interviewer, from “The Daily Show”, a satirical news programme, “your balance-sheets.”Fears that the Gray Lady, as the New York Times is affectionately known, is about to croak have been growing. Print circulation has been falling, as readers switch to the internet, while recession and migration to the internet have caused advertising revenues to plunge. The paper’s increasingly desperate owners, the Ochs-Sulzberger clan, had to turn last year for financial help to a Mexican billionaire, Carlos Slim, and even his money may not do the trick. The New York Times is generally reckoned to be one of the best daily papers in the world, the arbiter of “All the News That’s Fit to Print”, and its problems are no worse than that of the entire newspaper industry.

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