Would it surprise you to know that I have a paid online subscription to the New York Times?
Let me point out that I didn’t subscribe for the pundits like Friedman, Collins, Dowd or Krugman. In fact I’m paying very scant attention to their federal election. I subscribed because:
- I like their book reviews
- I like their Dining & Wine section
- I like the international coverage provided by their AP news feed
I mention this because it looks like a great many major Canadian newspapers are now adopting the modified paywall option: a few articles for free per month, or unlimited access for a regular fee. The Globe & Mail has adopted it, some of the Postmedia papers like the Ottawa Citizen have adopted it, and now the Toronto Star looks like it’s going to adopt it.
One of the Star’s regular pundits, Rose DiManno, has a few things to say about the reaction:
It costs big bucks to put out a decent paper, even if we’re not the New York Times, as so many have snidely observed. Unlike the Globe and Mail, we’ve never pretended to be and thus should not suffer by comparison.
We’re the source material for news. We do 90 per cent of the legwork.
The Star has never been gratis. The fact remains that salaries have to be paid, bills paid, travel expenses paid. Bloggers — citizen journalists some call them (not moi) — might do it for free, but that isn’t reliable reporting, nor held to demanding standards.
There’s a lot more to this column, there always is, but it’s just the usual “press dinosaur” woe-is-we yes-our-stuff-is-great-you-morons-don’t-get-it faff that press people use to defend their product in today’s reader-empowered-by-Internet world. What I’ve pulled out are simply the basic points: that news production costs money, that advertising is no longer the powerful revenue stream it once was and that, as a result, news consumers are going to have to assume more of the financial burden in order to get the information that they need.
And it’s also time to be honest. Bloggers — especially political bloggers — don’t do political news reporting. Far too few of us have the time or the inclination to dig through Hansard, keep CPAC on 24/7, scan through the reports put out by parliamentary committees and government departments, or interview ministers or other MPs. Which is what people like Susan Delacourt, Gloria Galloway, and Kady O’Malley are paid a living wage to do, by owners of mainstream media outlets. And, whether you think the quality of their work is up to par or not, the money for their salary has to come from somewhere.
Now I’m not planning on subscribing to the Star. But it’s not because I want to ignore Ms. DiManno; rather, it’s because the Star isn’t a national paper and I don’t live in Toronto. But I am considering a subscription to either the Globe or the Ottawa Citizen, the former because the quality of their journalism is consistently high (note: their journalism, not their punditry) and the latter because it’s a hometown paper with more room for coverage than the Ottawa Sun.
Why pay? Because I want my blogging opinion to be an informed one.