Add another struggle to the newsroom: how to balance the reporting objectivity and broader range of opinion older journalists strive for against the passionate and often impatient activism of the new generation?

A leak of internal Slack messages from New York Times editorial staff highlighted the issue. Younger staffers unhappy with a poorly-judged Tweet by a conservative-leaning columnist ranged further into the Times’s editorial culture, complaining about daily microaggressions, a hostile work environment and mere “lip service” to diversity.

Your take on the story probably depends on your politics, and maybe your age. For the Huffington Post, which leaked the transcripts, the NYT hiring conservative commentators is an offensive act: “Putting a philosopher’s toga on a troll.” It’s firmly on the side of the disgruntled reporting staff.

newsstand_previewWhen historians write the story of the demise of the newspaper industry in the early part of the 21st century, they’ll have a colourful cast of suspects. Colonel Zuckerberg, in the Saloon Bar, with slow-acting poison. Or perhaps Reverends Brin and Page, in the dining room, via strangulation. A range of less exalted figures, including tech-whispering editorial appointees, spurious media think tank gurus and publishers willing to pay them fortunes to divine the future of the industry. Even readers, who, given the choice between paying for the same old undifferentiated content and getting it for free made the rational choice of spending their hard-earned salaries elsewhere.

In truth, no-one expected it to work out this way. Fifteen years ago, as the shockwaves of the first crash wiped out most of the remaining new media startups, sobered publishing executives knew that while there was little appetite for gushing profiles of geniuses, the gloomier financial outlook didn’t mean the internet was going away.

Their storied brands and millions of paying readers gave them a moat protecting against the worst of the crash. From here, new empires would be built. Few were in any doubt about the potential of the internet (though its total mobile ubiquity was perhaps underestimated). Newspapers who were prepared for the next phase of internet dominance would make billions. And not only from home readers: Freed of print and distribution costs, anyone in the world with an internet connection was a potential reader.