Monday, September 17, 2007

New York Times comes full circle, makes website totally free...again

I used to like the NY Times a lot, unfortunately I've come to regard it with a little bit less respect, actually a lot less respect, in recent years. In fact, I don't even have any more NYT RSS feeds anymore. I do finally see what my conservative friends are talking about when they say 'liberal media bias', especially with the Times, which really is just too biased sometimes. These days I prefer my news from Slate, the Globe & Mail, and the BBC (not exactly a fantastic recent record either, but whatever).

First was the Blair scandal, with the guy who made up all the stories, which the paper itself called "a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper." Some of my favorites from the Wikipedia article:

  • In the February 10, 2003 piece "Peace and Answers Eluding Victims of the Sniper Attacks", Blair claimed to be in Washington, stole quotes from a Washington Post story and made up quotes from someone he had not interviewed. Blair ascribed a wide range of facts to a man featured in the article, almost all of which the man in question denied. Blair also published information that he had promised to the man was off the record.
  • In the October 30, 2003 piece "US Sniper Case Seen as a Barrier to a Confession", Blair wrote that a dispute between police authorities had ruined the interrogation of suspect John Muhammad, and that Muhammad was about to confess, quoting unnamed officials. This was swiftly denied by everyone involved. Blair also named certain lawyers as having witnessed the interrogation who were not present
Classy, real classy. The next event that eroded my confidence in the "paper of record" was Judith Miller, and her amusingly pathetic role in convincing the world that Saddam had nukes. My personal favorite piece on the matter is Maureen Dowd's scathing, vicious, and totally awesome hack-job on "Judy" (to use Dowd's patronizing moniker of choice). You can find it here.

Further erosion of my faith in the paper has come from its pathetically biased coverage of the Duke Lacrosse case...covered in detail at Durham-in-Wonderland and other blogs, and also in KC Johnson's new book, (which I havent read yet).

Maybe the final straw, however, to me, was back in 2005, when they made the entire online paper a subscription service, when it was all free before. It ran so counter to the obvious trends of the internet, of openness and of sharing data. We are clearly moving towards news organizations becoming a nexus of information, and subscription is counterproductive. Check out the "Ten Things Google has found to be true" here, its kind of part of Google's mission statement and vision. Google NEVER would've done what the Times did. It seems to me that had someone at the Times asked a Google exec what they thought back in '05, they would've told em not to go subscription.

Well, of course it failed and the Times went back to open content, but kept 'TimesSelect' for its op-ed contributors. They're the only ones I want to read at the Times anymore, so I was further driven away from the paper. Finally, oh finally, however, things have come full circle.
The New York Times Co said on Monday it will end its paid TimesSelect Web service and make most of its Web site available for free in the hopes of attracting more readers and higher advertising revenue.
TimesSelect will shut down on Wednesday, two years after the Times launched it, which charges subscribers $7.95 a month or $49.95 a year to read articles by columnists such as Maureen Dowd and Thomas Friedman.
Hah! Take that! I'm still sticking with Slate and the BBC thought, the only time I'll be on the NYT is for Brooks and Friedman now.