This week the death was announced of The International Herald Tribune, and her replacement by the International Edition of The New York Times. Born in Paris in 1887, the deceased reached maturity in 1967, when she became jointly and equally owned by The Washington Post and The New York Times. From then to 2003 were her glory years, perhaps because neither newspaper parent was able to impose their own, provincial culture on the cosmopolitan IHT editorial team in Paris. Here is Hendrik Hertzberg:
The first time I ever went anywhere outside the United States was in 1960. I was seventeen, I was by myself, and I was in Paris. At the earliest possible moment, I did four things. I sat down at a little table at an outdoor café. I ordered a glass of red wine. I lit a Gauloises. And I opened up my copy, freshly bought, of the Herald Tribune. Only then did I no longer feel like a tourist or a high-school kid. I was suddenly something better: an American in Paris.”
But no marketing manager can stomach a brand he does not control, so the NYT broke up the marriage with The Post in order to take full control of the IHT in 2003. The IHT was never the same since. Editorial control seemed to shift from Paris to Manhattan. The content seemed suddenly to be centred on events in New York, instead of on the world itself. New Yorkers don’t like to think of themselves as provincial, but they often are. The arts section is now a mash-up of the NYT arts section, for instance.
And for all their prizes, the editors of the NYT seems to lack some basic newspaper management skills. Why change the font? Why, one has to ask, must the cartoon page shift its position in the paper from day to day, like some permanent floating crap game? Now, in just a few days under its new name, the newspaper’s op-ed page has shifted elsewere in the paper. It seems that the editors mis-understand the nature of a newspaper – indeed, THIS newspaper – in the life of its readers, if they think we don’t care about such matters.
Now, instead of a paper written for and by English-speaking readers around the world, it has become a paper written by journalists in New York City for readers from New York City. The world’s loss, alas.