April 3, 2011

The News We Deserve

Here is my op-ed on the New York Times' new online subscription terms. Essentially, it's a piece on journalistic consumer ethics. Here are the first paragraphs:
"Last week, the New York Times decided to start charging $15 a month for online subscriptions, discontinuing unlimited free access to its pages. The Onion sardonically called this bold plan to actually charge people money for consuming goods and services a groundbreaking new business model. It concluded that if the plan fails, it would frankly be better that The New York Times not exist in a world where people are unwilling to pay the price of a movie ticket for a monthly online subscription.
I tend to share this view. Because essentially, we get the news we deserve. 
I hear many people today, often rather educated as they tend to read the Times regularly, complaining about this new charge, saying that they will not pay it. This confounds and infuriates me. Since when does one expect to get something for nothing? The truth is that free online access to journalism is far from free. As a result, newspapers are crumbling because they cannot generate enough ad revenue to continue providing quality investigative journalism. 
Geography is not yet history. That is to say, we cannot report everything from desktops. We still -- and will surely always -- need to rely on reporters out in the field doing in-depth investigations. And as the world gets increasingly complex and interconnected, we need more of this, not less."
         Read more.

We all share an obligation here to preserve quality journalism. For the freedom and protections our liberal democracy affords require an informed citizenry. And they aren't free. But at $15 a month, that's about as close to free as it's going to get. So if you use the NYT enough to soon run up against a web page requiring you to subscribe, do the right thing for yourself, and for democracy.


  1. As a long time reader of the Times, and a user of their app, I was thinking of not signing up. Five dollars a week!!!! But, after reading your piece in today's Daily Camera (Boulder), I did sign up just a few minutes ago. You talked me into it.

  2. Thanks Marc!

    I hope you were somewhat consoled, as a long time reader of the NYT, that you must have qualified for the initial 52 week reduction at only $2.81 per week.

    I got an email about that a few days ago.

  3. Great photos btw. I especially like these: http://www20.a2hosting.com/~rochkind/galleries/index.php?dir=Bryce+Canyon+and+Zion

  4. Julian,

    Whether educated readers of the NY Times pay or do not pay for extended use of the site will depend on their willingness to do so. As has been outlined by Mashable, it is extremely to continue reading articles after you've maxed out your limit by simply using a new browser.

    This paywall will work as a tool to test people's ethics. We know the spirit of NYT's rule and participating will require us to acknowledge that the material we are consuming gives us value.

    I'm excited to see if this is a successful model for the print business or not.



  5. Definitely Dan. But the NYT will probably find ways to crack down on these loopholes.