Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Atlantic Writer Hirschorn to New York Times: You Probably Won’t Fold This Spring

Breaking news: Michael Hirschorn, The Atlantic columnist who suggested earlier this month that the New York Times could fold this spring, now says that he was probably a bit hasty. Sort of.

Back story: Hirschorn, a former Viacom executive (and general NYC media star–New York Magazine,, etc.) published a widely noticed column this month that took a gander at the New York Times’s troubled finances and concluded that it was “plausible” that the paper could go out of business in May.

This week, the Times responded with a lengthy letter tut-tutting Hirschorn for breaches of protocol–“It’s not unusual that a journalist calls the subject of a piece before actually publishing the article or column. In fact, in some areas of journalism that’s standard practice.”–and arguing that he’d overstated his case.

Today, Hirschorn responds with a mea-sorta-culpa of his own, which you can see at the The Atlantic’s site (which is really good these days). Part of the problem, he says: The Times didn’t release some details about its financials until his article had gone to press.

Verdict: Both sides are correct! The New York Times (NYT) will not fold in May, when its $400 million credit revolver closes up. And the New York Times is in serious financial trouble. More details on the latter from my former employer, Henry Blodget, who did a nice job of explaining the Times’s credit crunch yesterday.

The big picture: This debate–will the New York Times exist by the end of 2009?–would have been inconceivable a year ago. That fact that it’s happening now underscores just how quickly the industry’s fortunes have declined.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik