Monday, September 19, 2005

All the News That's Fit to Print - But Only If You Pay

Ok, so despite the fact that Eli7 has far better things to do right now (like find a good topic for a human rights paper, any suggestions?), can we just take a moment out of the day to condemn the Times for their introduction of Times Select.

Though I still have access to the Times in paper and online (from a datatbase without pretty layout) through Columbia, everyone does not have these opportunities (which probably has something to do with the fact that everyone does not have a yearly tuition bill of $42,000), and the great thing about the Times online was that everybody could have access to the superior information in the paper of record.

And freedom of information is what allows people to become better informed, more active participants in society. The thought was that everyone cannot afford a subscription to the NY Times, but everyone deserves the information therein.

After all, isn't the way to rise above your class to have access to information? And if you don't have access to information because you can't afford it aren't you always stuck in a place where you won't be able to afford that information?

In The Times' defense, they are not limiting all their valuable information. They seem mostly to be limiting their op-ed columns, which some would say good riddance to anyway, but I think this decision was a poor choice that shows a commitment to profit over a value for what the newspaper produces, and I think that's a shame.

25 Comments:

At 9/19/05, 10:11 AM, Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

The Times exists to make money...Nothing else. Journalism is just the method in which they make their money.

 
At 9/19/05, 10:26 AM, Blogger Eli7 said...

I'd really like to believe that isn't true, CWY. I work for my college newspaper and I have never in my life seen people work harder or put more effort into something, and trust me, no one there is doing it for the money.

And reporters, in general, are not really reaping in the dough. So why do they do it?

 
At 9/19/05, 11:48 AM, Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

The Times is a privatly held company...It exists for one purpose, and that it to make money. If they think that people will pay for a service, they will charge for it. End of story. The feelings of the individual reporters are irrelavant, though I don't believe that any of the reporters who work for the Times would do it for free.

 
At 9/19/05, 1:29 PM, Anonymous J said...

Yes I agree the Times should be ashamed for charging people to read their newspaper. I think there should be free distribution everywhere and they should go around from door to door giving away newspapers.

They don't? Shame on them. How do they expect people to rise above their class now? Oh, don't have internet either? Too bad.

 
At 9/19/05, 2:39 PM, Blogger Nephtuli said...

Hmmmmm.... I'll make you a deal. You figure out a note topic for my women's law journal and I'll give you a topic for a human rights paper.

Deal?

I'll go first.

How about whether the prohibitions on torture are considered jus cogens from an international law standpoint despite the almost universal violation of the norm (AI estimates almost 2/3rds of the countries commit torture).

If that's too law oriented, you could write about whether torture should be allowed in ticking bomb situations or, as per Dershowitz, with a torture warrant.

 
At 9/19/05, 2:55 PM, Blogger Eli7 said...

J, ok, so maybe I overreacted a little, but I do think the fact that the Times provided free access was really nice and a gesture to the fact that they value what they do.

Yes, they charge for print copies, and you're right that not eveyone has access to the Internet at all (separate problem altogether), but the fact that they were actually giving something for nothing was a testament to the fact that they thought the information they provided was so important that everyone should have access.

Now, they are saying, "well actually you can only have access if you can afford to pay us and choose to do so," and I just think it is a shame and it limits free access to information which in turn limits self-education and the ability for people to rise above their class in a way that the Times did not do before.

Nephtuli, I'll get back to you, but number one, torture is a human rights violation no matter what, and number two, we're covering that topic in class so it's no good for a paper. What would entail a note topic? (Excuse my ignorance, but I don't really know what that is.)

 
At 9/19/05, 3:17 PM, Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

They didn't charge b/c they thought they could get more money from ad revenue.

Obviously, now they think they can make more money by charging.

The economics of it is pretty simple.

 
At 9/19/05, 3:26 PM, Blogger Eli7 said...

Well, call me an optomist, call me an idealist, or just cal me stupid, but I do actually believe that there is an integrity associated with journalism and a value given to it in society which is different than the pure market economics you wish to use in this situation.

I work with college journalists who are going to grow up into the real thing, and they are committed to journalism and see an inherent value in journalism that cannot be explained by economics.

 
At 9/19/05, 3:38 PM, Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

Don't confuse the journalists with with the owners and stockholders of the company...

My point is, the NY Times Company, is no different from McDonalds, Du Pont, GM or any other corporation. They exist to make money.

 
At 9/19/05, 5:59 PM, Blogger TRW said...

(Not having to do with this, but you don't have another place for random messages, Miss Columbia...)

Did you know that Columbia has over 1,000 Hebrew Manuscripts in its collection?

Fine, I give in. I'm jealous. But only 'cause I like your library...it actually has the largest amount in the US for a non-Judaica affiliated unversity...as of 1975, anyway...but I still think I'm gonna do Graduate work at Yale instead ;)

 
At 9/19/05, 7:19 PM, Blogger Michael said...

I'm with CWY on this one. Firms exist to make money. End of story. Unfortunately, the Times, too, is a firm and must answer to its private shareholders at the end of the day. Once they determined that they weren't making enough off web ads and their print revenues continue to sag, they had to come up with something more creative.

It's a shame that the op-ed columnists, at least the more intelligent and less partisan ones who propose some good ideas or share their insights every once in a while, are now behind a wall to many people.

It's probably illegal but if we're so idealistic, we should post all their subscription-only op-eds on another blog and maintain the free flow of information and ideas! :)

 
At 9/19/05, 7:22 PM, Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

If I already didn't have home delivery of the Times, I would not sign up for the "select" service.

Why would anyone pay to read Dowd or Rich?

 
At 9/19/05, 7:46 PM, Blogger Michael said...

I, too, have home delivery but Friedman (sometimes Brooks, too) is often worth reading. Plus, TS provides access to 100 archived articles per month for "free," gives you early access to the Mag and other Sunday sections, allows you to save articles and all sorts of email subscriptions etc. If you use it enough, $50 a year is well worth it.

But, Eli7's point remains: in an ideal world it shouldn't cost anything at all.

 
At 9/19/05, 7:48 PM, Anonymous J said...

Yeah it's not a big deal for me either. Where I'm in college, they give away free copies of the times anyway.

 
At 9/19/05, 8:57 PM, Blogger Nephtuli said...

A note topic is basically a paper topic for a law journal article. The problem is that it must be something that was never done before.

Ok, how about whether house demolitions by Israel are a violation of international humanitarian law? Or alternatively, deal with the issue of whether the international community is culpable for ignoring the genocide (if one can term it that) in Darfur.

 
At 9/20/05, 4:53 AM, Blogger Michael said...

Nephtuli, you wrote:
...whether the international community is culpable for ignoring the genocide (if one can term it that) in Darfur
Are you implying that what's going on in Darfur is not genocide!?!

 
At 9/20/05, 12:27 PM, Blogger Nephtuli said...

Michael,

Genocide is a legal term and has been defined by convention. I'm not familiar enough with the convention (anymore at least) or with the motivation behind the atrocities in Darfur to comment on its legal status.

But what do you think about it as a paprt topic?

 
At 9/20/05, 5:49 PM, Blogger Michael said...

I think the reason I got so excited about your comment was because I spent part of yesterday researching the issue. As you may be aware, lots of organizations are dedicating tomorrow (Wednesday) to Darfur awareness efforts with the hope that the White House and other organizations will become more actively engaged in saving the millions of displaced people who are dying far too quickly and for far too many bad reasons. Additionally, I was going to do my senior thesis on Darfur but someone beat me to it by a day so I wrote about the conflict in Kashmir instead.

In general, however, I don't think that there's any debate (unless you're a member of the Sudanese government) that what's going on there is genocide. Do a bit research, read up a bit, there's isn't much ambiguity in my humble opinion.

 
At 9/20/05, 6:40 PM, Blogger Eli7 said...

I would hafta agree that what's going on in Darfur is a genocide by any defintion. And Nephtuli it would be an excellent paper topic, but I want to do something a little less cliched (and I don't like international politics at all), so... Ahh well, I didn't come up with a topic for you at all, so you're still ahead.

 
At 9/20/05, 7:05 PM, Blogger Nephtuli said...

Eli,

Take your time. I have until Monday. :-)

Last possible topic for you:

The rights of the Basques to create their own state.

Michael,

As I said before genocide is a legal term. It's been defined in a convention. I'm not denying that what is happening is probably genocide, but I need to see the relevant conventions, and learn more about the facts before I'm sure.

 
At 9/20/05, 7:37 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Nephtuli: I'd offer to find all the legals docs and treaties etc. but don't have time. However, given your prior writings, I'm confident you'll be able to do a stellar job researching it for yourself and will come to agree with me, Elisheva, and most of the rest of the world that what's going on there is, in fact, genocide and must be stopped.

Tangentially, I'd like to point this article out for everyone (including you, Elisheva) in the aftermath of the debate above regarding the Times being a business and only looking out for its bottom line.

[Elisheva, how do you not like int'l politics!?! What's your prefered brand?]

 
At 9/21/05, 11:50 AM, Blogger Nephtuli said...

Michael,

My first impression is to agree with you, but I hesitate you use such terms so quickly. When I have time, I'll do the research.

Eli,

On that last topic:

You could broaden it to ask under what conditions minorities have a right to secede from their country. Compare the Kurds from Turkey and the Basques from Spain to the Eritreans from Ethiopia.

 
At 9/22/05, 5:44 AM, Blogger Eli7 said...

My preferred brand of politics is political theory, hence I'm doing my paper on whether the corpus of human rights confers obligations along with responsibilities (i.e. is the right to food contingent on the right to work?).

However, researching said topic is a lot harder than researching what's going on in Darfur. Ah well. Philosophy isn't supposed to be easy.

 
At 9/22/05, 12:29 PM, Blogger Nephtuli said...

Eli,

I guess my suggestions were for naught. The topic sounds good though. I think I have a topic as well, but I'll let you know when I find out if I can use it.

 
At 12/8/05, 11:42 AM, Anonymous Derick Friddle said...

Wishing you all the best!

 

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