Last night I was with some friends who were bemoaning the fact the NY Times is going to start charging for content. It starts with the NY Times and then before we know it all kinds of media outlets will be asking us to pay to read their stories, they argued. My friends complained that this move is taking us back in time. This is the age of the Internet after all... information should be free!
I could not disagree more.
Personally I will pay for my NYTimes.com subscription with pleasure. I believe the move by the NYT to charge readers is critical step in the right direction for journalism. Good journalism comes at a price. Quality stories by thoughtful, experienced reporters cannot be generated for free. As someone who spends much of her day talking to the media, I see first hand how reporters are spread far too thin. They are covering so many beats, so many different subjects, it is simply not possible for the coverage they generate to include the rich research and expertise required for consistent, high quality reporting. What’s worse, we are seeing some of the best journalists out there being laid off because of the high salaries they have earned after years of dedication and success in their field. Sadly, many of those reporters are leaving journalism to pursue new fields.
The question is: Do we want the field of journalism to be dominated by reporters who are spread too thin? Do we want even our nation’s highest regarded publications written almost entirely by entry-level writers who fit the budget but will seek to move to a more lucrative field as they mature in their career?
The flow of information is the lifeblood of our society. I, for one, would like that information to be thoughtful, well researched and delivered by a journalist who is well paid for her experience and expertise. So the NYT can count on me to be their first full paid subscriber.