Here's what a famous, former Times reporter offered me by way of explanation:
Too few reporters, far too few copy editors, lots of talent left for better pay elsewhere, travel budgets too small and war coverage is super costly (Bagdahd bureau costs $5m per year at least). Not a happy shop.
ADDENDUM: A colleague at Michigan writes:
I just wanted to thank you for staying on the New York Times for their flabby reporting on law schools. But I fear the underlying problem might go far deeper than the issues you mentioned in your blog post from this morning. Beyond the extraordinarily serious Jayson Blair and Judith Miller scandals, the Times coverage of intellectual and academic issues in general has been in serious decline of late -- perhaps since the failed "Ideas and Culture" section. The book review has been in serious decline for several years now -- currently featuring mostly popular, trade, and journalistic reviews (I know few academics that take it seriously any longer). Most recently, the Times featured a review of new NYT executive editor Jill Abrahamson's book on . . . HER PUPPY! And if that wasn't bad enough -- the "editors" then made it an official "editor's choice" --thus boosting their own editor's sales (ah . . . the rebound of journalistic ethics since Blair)! The Week in Review section used to have some serious intellectual content -- thanks to some excellent academic op-ed contributors. But if you want some idea of where that's headed (now being run by the same folks who presided over the decline of the Book Review), check out the bottom of p. 2 of the re-dubbed "Sunday Review" section -- there's a column labelled "Download" by Kate Murphy (described as a "journalist in Houston who writes frequently for the New York Times") -- it's about "Kelly Rowland" of "Destiny's Child" fame . . . there are almost no words by Kate Murphy -- the "journalist in Houston" -- just one word questions for Rowland where under "READING" we learn that Rowland bought (she doesn't actually say "is reading") a copy of a recent Marvin Gaye biography at a music museum and that she is also reading Great Gatsby (my sense is that if one never reads anything, that one can always at least recall having been assigned the Great Gatsby in high school . . . i.e., it is commonly understood as a book that many people frequently claim to have read in magazine and newspaper features like "DOWNLOAD"). We also learn that Rowland is "WATCHING" "everything on You Tube there is to watch." On twitter, she is "FOLLOWING" "friends and some of my fans who review things I do." Good grief -- we're in the belly of the beast!
Anyway, sorry to belabor the issue, but I am grateful that you're keeping up the pressure on NYT -- we are quickly losing a wonderful national intellectual resource.