Thursday, November 16, 2006


New York Times About to Collapse

The New York Times newspaper is now on its deathbed. I plan on buying several copies of the last issue as collector's items. How do I know the New York Times will soon go the way of the dodo bird? They have announced it themselves, although with their typical inability to understand how the world really operates they did not quite realize what they were saying. The New York Times announced its demise by spending about half a billion dollars on its new headquarters building. The Times Company will occupy floors 2 through 28 of the building. It has an open plan to ease communication, wide entrances to "facilitate pedestrian circulation," both roof and ground floor gardens, and all manner of green and energy efficient features. It will be the ultimate newspaper headquarters. Of course, any student of human institutions recognizes this for what it really is: a tombstone.

I think the great philosopher C. Northcote Parkinson described this phenomenon best in his classic short work on organizational behavior (and a must read for any literate modern man) Parkinson's Law:

It is now known that a perfection of planned layout is achieved only by institutions on the point of collapse. This apparently paradoxical conclusion is based upon a wealth of archaeological and historical research... A study and comparison of these has tended to prove that perfection of planning is a symptom of decay. During a period of exciting discovery or progress there is no time to plan the perfect headquarters. The time for that comes later, when all the important work has been done. Perfection, we know, is finality, and finality is death.

A vibrant, healthy news organization might have spent that half a billion dollars developing better newsgathering capability, trying to get more subscribers, or developing new markets and products. The fact that The Times Company spent it on having fancier administrative overhead tells us everything we need to know about its lack of future.

I can only hope that the ATF will not be far behind. I wonder what genius in the Bush administration put the nail in that hated-by-conservatives organization by offering to usher them into the grave with a perfect, new, taxpayer-payer funded mausoleum where they can push papers to each other in luxury instead of venturing into the harsh unairconditioned and uncarpeted world to pester the freedom loving citizenry.

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