Sunday, March 27, 2011

NYTimes to Go Back Behind the Firewall

So the New York Times has decided to go back behind a paid firewall. I remember when they first did this (back in '05? it feels like yesterday)... And I got through it easily back then. The only person I cared about reading at the time was Krugman, mainly because he was the only sane voice during the terrible two years of 2005-2006 (when the GOP was unstoppable in their evil). Sadly the Times could have taken a leadership role and dubiously decided that they needed to make more money.

I'm on record saying that when the News acts as a for-profit business, everyone suffers. The news-agencies turn into lowest-common-denominator gutter entertainment organs (because that's where the money is), creating and perpetuating scandals, and - worst of all - distorting the news in order to sell sell sell. The best example (outside of the "Feeding Frenzies") was the very existence of Sarah Palin. In the modern for-profit journalist world, every election needs to be a 'horse race' and even when a violently unacceptable candidate for VP is chosen, the media needs to keep the sides even.

The Times, arrogant as ever, believes that they have survived the newspaper crunches and can demand that people will pay for their product. Were they accurate - i.e. were they truly a good news source - then maybe it would be a smart plan. But, pardon my French, the Times' sucks. Their news quality is poorly written (I remember when the Times was written at a 12th Grade level), ignorant and thus biased in the worst way, and not nearly as useful as a good blog collection will be.

They have no idea how badly they will get burned by this - because five lines of computer code will be able to collect news from around the web better than the Times. Competition in the infinite cyberspace makes one specific news source obsolete.

The only thing the Times could boast would be their columnists - and two have just bolted. Frank Rich, who was the best thing in the paper, and now Bob Herbert (who I couldn't care less about). They must be the smartest people there because they're getting out. Columnists are pundits, which makes them nickel academics. In the idea profession, it's far more important to have influence than shiny metal coins: an academic would gladly give academic books/papers out for free if that meant more people would read 'em.

What to Read Instead?

There are a few options. The best news agency out there is actually the old Knight-Ridder, now known as the unpronounceable McClatchy. Their main site is here and it's worth reading instead.

The other options are Yahoo News - which is the AP Wire, a very good option. AP is still biased, but by dint of necessity - they try to sell to as many papers as possible - they are as comprehensive as possible. It's business model is most likely to survive the internet.

And of course I'll just go to Jpost and Haaretz more.

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