The New York Times has a new slogan…er, cliche

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countrieshaveborders2Slogans are sort of micro tweets, intended to sell brand by as much repetition as possible.

“This is CNN” is innocuous enough, even as comfortingly intoned by James Earl Jones. But CNN has also long espoused its “Most Trusted Name in News” slogan, which is straying a bit. This is the magic of marketing. You repeat the “Most Trusted Name in News” every few minutes and what do you know, the “Most Trusted Name in News” begins to sound pretty reliable.

Thanks, Ted.

Of course, the pendulum swings both ways. Fox News has “Fair and Balanced.” Trust and fairness are both highly personal and individualized concepts. They are, in fact, uncountable concepts in English. You cannot put a number on them. And therein lies the rub of their success. The concepts are impossible to verify. You cannot count how many people trust or believe a particular story fair at any moment in time. There is no way to do this.

You can do a sampling. You can phrase a question in such a way to get a particular response. And who is to differ with your results? In other words, who’s to differ with behemoths? Nobody, actually. You or I as individuals don’t have the resources on any given date to conduct a contrary poll to CNN or Fox News with questions phrased to elicit different answers.

“Fair and Balanced?”

Thanks, Rupert.

And then there is the New York Times.

For me, the myth of the New York Times has always been partially based on the paper’s genius slogan, “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” I have forever loved the apostrophe in That’s. For me, this is where the Old World leaves off, and the New World begins. A disregard for the past, businessmen in control, no baloney, and factual truth acknowledged. Adolph Simon Ochs adopted the slogan in 1896, a much simpler time. I imagine Adolph coming up with “All the News That’s Fit to Print” sitting at the dinner table with his wife Effie, and his daughter Iphigene. Here’s what we’ll do. It’s settled. We’ll brand the paper with “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” Iphigene laughs – she may have coined the phrase. Decision made. A scene out of a George Cukor movie.

It turns out, though, that the present-day New York Times is not immune to the marketplace. Adding more content to its constant on-line redefinition, the paper is in the process of seeking out a viable position as an essential provider of minute-by-minute video news. When it recently redesigned its Magazine, the New York Times said this: “We admit it: We’re late to this party.”

Yeah, and how.

Do you have an iPhone? You are a news medium.

What do you know? “All the News That’s Fit to Print” is no longer the guideline. First it was “All the News That’s Fit to Click.” Ouch! So last century, distant from the culture supposedly being mirrored. We don’t click news. We breathe it when we need it. But they got that! The nytimes.com new slogan as of just this past month is “Countries have borders, Stories don’t.”

Really. What a limp, CNN-inspired copy!

What happened to news? Now all we are interested in are stories, personal interpretations of what happened. We no longer care for the facts?

What a turnaround.

Christopher Burke (17 Posts)

Christopher Burke is a freelance writer and cartoonist based in Bogota, Colombia. His cartoons are often in the pages of the Chronicle of Higher Education and are always found at http://www.burkecartoons.com. His observations on daily life in Colombia can be found at http://christopherburkecolombia.wordpress.com.