That isn’t because I haven’t pondered micro-payments, or endowments, or Web subscriptions, or citizen journalism, or even the new media consultant’s insistence that salvation for every Web venture lies in Twittering — it’s because there’s precious little work that’s been done to study what exactly newspapers do that is of civic value, what functions will survive the broadsheet’s decline and fall, and the most viable and efficient ways to revive the important stuff that doesn’t survive.
The task is made insanely difficult by the fact that every newspaper is different—a quirky bundle of stuff, the business section excellent and the sports section atrocious, and vice-versa in the next town, a public meetings calendar on page three here, but nowhere on the pages of the newspaper three towns over.
A fair assessment, I guess, but let's face facts: the Times, for better or worse, is the best-known paper in the country, and probably the Western world. If the Times fails, the rest of the industry follows.
Uh, no. Here's the kicker to Captialism: if someone fails, there will always be someone there to replace the failure. That's how it works. There will always be a need for news, if it's through the internet or paper there will always be journalism. The Times is not the be all end all of the journalism industry. It certainly has an influence, that's for sure, but it's not the immovable force people make it out to be.
You're right, of course, that when an enormous institution, such as the Times, fails, it will be replaced by something new. What I meant was that the Times is the leading indicator for the current newspaper industry.