Reasonable minds may disagree on whether The New York Times is the finest newspaper in the country. Most of us, however, would at least allow that it has entrenched itself, over more than a century and a half of publishing, as our national newspaper of record. Anything that reflects a city as complex as New York -- or a country as complex as the United States -- is necessarily awash in contradiction. Whether you revere its high-minded conscience or despise its patrician snobbery, it's nearly impossible to imagine America -- let alone Manhattan -- without the Times.
Yet we may have to. If we've learned one thing over the past two years, it's that there's no big institution too big or too institutional to fail -- even the New York Times Co. (NYT) is vulnerable. Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Chrysler, GM -- each time another one collapses, we hold our breath, transfixed like horrified citizens standing under a tottering skyscraper. The glowering face of Dick Fuld, CEO of Lehman Brothers, said it all last October, as he testified with uncomprehending rage before Congress about his capsized bank. Lehman Brothers? Who's next? The New York Times? No. Never. Well ... perhaps?