Newspapers were spiraling downward. Competing entertainments abounded, from cellphones to video games, from social-networking sites to online porn. Technology was not merely luring readers; it was changing them. Full printed pages didn’t fit onto monitors, so portion size shrank, dicing news into ever-smaller morsels. Instant updates on the Internet bred contempt for day-old headlines in ink. Even the habit of exchanging money for information dwindled—online, payment was merely an option. As readership plummeted, advertisers fled and losses mounted. But, doggedly, the pay-per-view papers kept...