New York has long been an anomaly among American cities: the metropolitan area supports four competing daily newspapers, the New York Times, the Post, Daily News and, in Long Island, Newsday. Maybe not for much longer. Crains, the business newspaper, claims Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation may have approached the owners of Newsday, Sam Zell's Tribune Company, with a bid. That the Australian media mogul would make such a bid is less a sign of confidence in the newspaper industry, and more an indication of the decline in print advertising, which has put pressure on all newspaper groups. It's only since the latest horrific numbers came out that Newsday's erratic owner, Sam Zell, has indicated Tribune may be willing to sell. (The conglomerate lost $78m in the fourth quarter.)

So why would Murdoch, having just closed down in preparation for an advertising recession, shell out for Newsday? Because it would be a defensive move. Murdoch wouldn't close down Newsday, but he'd be looking to save costs by combining its advertising sales with that of Murdoch's existing New York tabloid, the Post. The Post could take its Long Island coverage from Newsday; and Newsday could rely on the Post for news from the city. Murdoch has said that, if the papers combined, the loss-making New York Post would move instantly into profit.

It's not as if the New York Post would lose its edge: the paper's main cross-town competition remains the Daily News. But the New York newspaper market, uniquely competitive for the US, would become just a little more like the dull oligopolies that crush the soul in the rest of the country. (Ah, well, there's still London, with a dozen dailies providing entertaining editorial combat for the jaded masses.)