The New York Times shuts down India Ink

India Ink, New York Times blog

Having heralded the arrival of the India-focused New York Times blog India Ink less than three years ago, I find that the recent announcement they are shutting it down occasions some reflection.  The Times is shuttering almost all of its blogs — it started with another favorite of mine, The Lede — so it is difficult to judge whether India Ink’s fate is a judgment on its accomplishments.  I believed — and still believe — that India Ink was a step in the right direction, even if the quality of the articles was sometimes uneven.  Indian friends occasionally criticized its perspective as too American, but even that criticism was a kind of accomplishment because they meant in comparison to The Caravan or Scroll.in or various other India-based publications; by the standards of the foreign press, India Ink was remarkably local in its perspective and detail — except for the incendiary Devyani Khobragade affair, which by virtue of its New York angle meant it was written about by non-India Ink reporters.

I had once hoped that India Ink was a harbinger that the New York Times was becoming a truly global publication that could be local everywhere — something like the Economist, but daily — in which editors made decisions about what was newsworthy outside of the parochial interests of an American audience.  Now, the Times seems in retreat from that vision; maybe, it didn’t even understand that’s where it was headed.  The Times contends that the blog is ‘moving’ and gives the new URL as nytimes.com/world but you know what that means: India goes back to competing for bandwidth with all the other foreign coverage, so it will be a compendium of violence, tragedy and quirky human interest stories of the sort that, collectively, completely misrepresent what India looks like.  Too bad.

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As a side note, maybe the New York Times’ error was simply to call these things ‘blogs.’  What is a blog these days?  It sounds like an artifact of the early Internet era when writing online was seen as different, in some undefined way, from writing for print.  The only real defining characteristic of a blog now is the reverse-chronological display order of articles, but that is hardly sufficient to separate it from the main journalistic enterprise at a place like the Times.  Maybe if they’d called India Ink and the others ‘verticals’ — a term of long standing in the print and ad worlds referring to just this sort of narrow, focused coverage area — they would have survived.

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