The NY Sun Sets — A Beginning of an Era?

The New York Sun, a conservative paper that was almost entirely freely distributed to the wealthier zip codes of New York, has failed to finance its future. I should be cheering the demise a paper with an editorial page almost as heinous as the Wall Street Journal‘s, but I’m much more concerned about the relationship between cities and their papers. Read on.

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I almost worked for the New York Sun. As an intern. I was an enterprising little reporter back in 2002 when the newspaper was getting off the ground and I figured I could get in while the getting was fairly uncompetitive. I had some back and forths with an editor about scheduling an interview, but then a scoop came up and he missed the interview and I never went back there again. I figured the company didn’t have its shit together. And the internship wasn’t paying. So I got something with the College Board, you know, the people who devise the SATs and AP tests. I was paid $12 per hour to do nothing — I wanted to do something, but they didn’t really need me and so I realized that the education I was getting was in the American tradition of pretending to work. I would make sure I got in at nine am and then by ten I’d be at Barnes and Noble. I’d just had a college class with Richard Price and was reading all his books. Rick Moody, my idol, had just published his memoir. I’d read a chapter or two then go back to work for a few minutes, then sneak out again. Soon enough I realized, really, no one cared about my attendance at the office and I started going to see entire movies during the middle of the day. I was lucky in that I was on the Upper West Side where there was both an independent film cinema and a multiplex.

Getting back to the New York Sun though. The editor eventually called halfway through the summer to say that he’d interview me if I was still available. I was sad telling him I wasn’t. I remembered thinking that this paper could be something interesting. In fact, many mornings on the M79 bus across town to the College Board, I spent a quarter — or was it 50 cents? — on a copy to read on my ride. What struck me as particularly odd, and almost 20th-century-German was the way the arts coverage was so interesting and thorough and yet the political material was so corrupt.

What’s sad about the Sun setting is the realization that if Conrad Black and other wealthy right-wingers can’t make a paper profitable, few will be able to. Except Metro and AMNY. The crap that isn’t good enough to wipe my subway seat. As someone who once had the dream — and the fortitude! — to publish my own magazine (albeit for just two issues), I realize that the era of starting up an intellectual plot in the guise of printed matter is a terribly irresponsible use of money. What is amazing is that Next American City has held on during this war against print. We are actually older than the NY Sun — we actually outlived that paper. There is of course the possibility that instead of papers about cities, we will want magazines about them, like NAC, but I’m not counting on that.

Here is Seth Lipsky, talking to Sun employees about the paper and what it means to be part of a media organization that takes print seriously:

It is in the nature of things that there are going to be some jeers as we go out, as there were when we came in. Do not be discouraged by this. To those who say to you, “I told you so, I knew you would fail” you can say this: “No wonder you didn’t join us.” And you — reporters, editors, critics, photographers, secretaries, sales executives, book-keepers, circulation staff, technology geniuses, drivers — all of you will be able to tell your children and your grandchildren or simply your friends that not only did you appear in arms in a great newspaper war but that you did so on your own terms, for principles you believed in, and worked with some of the greatest newspaper craftsmen and craftswomen of your generation — and you covered yourselves with distinction.

The irony, of course, is that I’m blogging about this.

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Diana Lind is the former executive director and editor in chief of Next City.

Tags: new york citynext american city

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