Post-paper and after the tears

The great thing about Michael Hirschorn’s piece in the Atlantic about the death of the print New York Times is that it sees beyond the period of mourning and imagines what a post-paper Times could and should be. That’s what journalists should be doing – imagining a different – and perhaps even better – future.

“Ultimately, the death of The New York Times—or at least its print edition—would be a sentimental moment, and a severe blow to American journalism,” he says. “But a disaster? In the long run, maybe not.”

Hirschorn imagines many of the elements of the paperless paper that I also envision: more specializing, aggregation, collaboration. Individual brands – Friedman, Krugman, Sorkin – standing out on their own.

In an optimistic scenario, the remaining reporters—now reporters-cum-bloggers, in many cases—could use their considerable savvy to mix their own reporting with that of others, giving us a more integrative, real-time view of the world unencumbered by the inefficiencies of the traditional journalistic form. Times readers might actually end up getting more exposure than they currently do to reporting resources scattered around the globe, and to areas and issues that are difficult to cover in a general-interest publication.

I also love that he presents the model for the new Times as Huffington Post. The Times would surely quibble with that. But they’re not as far apart as they might seem. Both respect good reporting. As Arianna told Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger in London a few months ago, the reason she hires reporters is because their stories get more traffic. The public, too, respects good reporting. So maybe the Times should buy the Huffington Post – or vice versa – and they can start to learn from each other now. Naw, that’s going too far.

But having this discussion about life and journalism post-paper is valuable and I’m glad it’s happening.