Friday, March 25, 2011

Paying for it

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.


  1. I'm probably going to do the same thing, Harvey. When the pay wall was announced, I began counting my visits to some area of the I was surprised that I would have hit my limit in three days, and that wasn't counting tweeted links.

    Good for you to still be taking the local paper, no matter how lame it might be. Papers are dying, and moving to the Internet may be the only way dailies survive. We won't know what we had until they are gone.

  2. As an aspiring journalist, I'd like to thank you.
    You're right that there will always be a place in the world for well researched and properly written news, arts, sports and opinion articles, but the challenge for those of us in this business is how to pay our bills when every person with a blog thinks he does what we do. I hope to work for the NY Times one day, but for that to happen it has to not be bankrupt.

    A quick aside:
    To those who say information should be free: it is. You have every right to make the phone calls we make, file open records requests and sift through the documents given, research historical context and attend every long meeting of the city government. But if you expect someone to do it for you and then put it together in an interesting a readable way, you're going to have to pay for it. It's kind of the print version of paying for parts and labor.