On Monday, the New York Times website will no longer offer all of its content free of charge. As a regular reader of the Times online and a former subscriber to the ink and paper edition (I can't get it delivered here in the hinterlands) I hope this works for them.
Professional journalism, the kind where facts are checked, stories are more than 140 characters long, and real investigative work is done to understand the underlying facts behind the issues, is hard to do for free. Yes, advertising is one source of revenue, but to date, online banners, interstitials, and other sponsorship models haven't been able to foot the bill.
Internet purists are up in arms. They insist that "on the internet, information wants to be free." That's all well and good unless providing that information is how you put food on your table. Reporters can't pay their mortgages with good will.
What it boils down for me to is this: I believe professional, edited, investigative journalism is essential to our democracy. It keeps corporations from taking advantage of workers and the environment. It prevents politicians from running roughshod over the constitution. It helps me understand whether or not Spiderman the Musical is worth a trip to New York.
So I for one, will be paying for the Times starting Monday and continue to receive the analog version of the Sheboygan Press in my mailbox each morning. Because as imperfect as the press is – and believe me, the Sheboygan Press and New York Times are far from perfect – it's better than relying on the unfiltered mass of "information" that's out there on the web.