New York is a place of surfeits and shortages. Of office space, we have too much; of plain old space, too little. Of fileted fresh lobster meat, at $35 a pound, there is much too much; of basic foodstuffs for the legion of hungry, far too little. Of opinions about the schools crisis, too many; of classroom seats, too few. And of heat, as E.B. White once ruefully observed, there is always either too much or too little.
But there is one commodity, it seems to me, of which New York possesses exactly the right amount: newspapers. True, the number’s gone down over the years. You still read the occasional paean to the days when there were nine or eleven or whatever it was, but the truth is, the thought of nine general-interest newspapers is overwhelming, even absurd, in an age when anyone is a couple of clicks away from reading El Pais or Suddeustche Zeitung. Besides, much of that industry has shifted now to a muscular immigrant press—Polish and Russian and Indian and Arabic and perhaps nine papers in Chinatown alone. No, three seems about the right number—still more than any other American city, which of course is, to chauvinistic New Yorkers, the main thing (and you can stretch it to four if you throw in the Wall Street Journal), and still offering a sufficient diet of variety and spice....
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