This is an archive, please visit for current posts.
PressThink: Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine
Recent Entries
Like PressThink? More from the same pen:

Read about Jay Rosen's book, What Are Journalists For?

Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

"Web Users Open the Gates." My take on ten years of Internet journalism, at

Read: Q & As

Jay Rosen, interviewed about his work and ideas by journalist Richard Poynder

Achtung! Interview in German with a leading German newspaper about the future of newspapers and the Net.

Audio: Have a Listen

Listen to an audio interview with Jay Rosen conducted by journalist Christopher Lydon, October 2003. It's about the transformation of the journalism world by the Web.

Five years later, Chris Lydon interviews Jay Rosen again on "the transformation." (March 2008, 71 minutes.)

Interview with host Brooke Gladstone on NPR's "On the Media." (Dec. 2003) Listen here.

Presentation to the Berkman Center at Harvard University on open source journalism and NewAssignment.Net. Downloadable mp3, 70 minutes, with Q and A. Nov. 2006.

Video: Have A Look

Half hour video interview with Robert Mills of the American Microphone series. On blogging, journalism, NewAssignment.Net and distributed reporting.

Jay Rosen explains the Web's "ethic of the link" in this four-minute YouTube clip.

"The Web is people." Jay Rosen speaking on the origins of the World Wide Web. (2:38)

One hour video Q & A on why the press is "between business models" (June 2008)

Recommended by PressThink:

Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

Terry Teachout is a cultural critic coming from the Right at his weblog, About Last Night. Elegantly written and designed. Plus he has lots to say about art and culture today.

Dave Winer is the software wiz who wrote the program that created the modern weblog. He's also one of the best practicioners of the form. Scripting News is said to be the oldest living weblog. Read it over time and find out why it's one of the best.

If someone were to ask me, "what's the right way to do a weblog?" I would point them to Doc Searls, a tech writer and sage who has been doing it right for a long time.

Ed Cone writes one of the most useful weblogs by a journalist. He keeps track of the Internet's influence on politics, as well developments in his native North Carolina. Always on top of things.

Rebecca's Pocket by Rebecca Blood is a weblog by an exemplary practitioner of the form, who has also written some critically important essays on its history and development, and a handbook on how to blog.

Dan Gillmor used to be the tech columnist and blogger for the San Jose Mercury News. He now heads a center for citizen media. This is his blog about it.

A former senior editor at Pantheon, Tom Englehardt solicits and edits commentary pieces that he publishes in blog form at TomDispatches. High-quality political writing and cultural analysis.

Chris Nolan's Spot On is political writing at a high level from Nolan and her band of left-to-right contributors. Her notion of blogger as a "stand alone journalist" is a key concept; and Nolan is an exemplar of it.

Barista of Bloomfield Avenue is journalist Debbie Galant's nifty experiment in hyper-local blogging in several New Jersey towns. Hers is one to watch if there's to be a future for the weblog as news medium.

The Editor's Log, by John Robinson, is the only real life honest-to-goodness weblog by a newspaper's top editor. Robinson is the blogging boss of the Greensboro News-Record and he knows what he's doing.

Fishbowl DC is about the world of Washington journalism. Gossip, controversies, rituals, personalities-- and criticism. Good way to keep track of the press tribe in DC

PJ Net Today is written by Leonard Witt and colleagues. It's the weblog of the Public Journalisn Network (I am a founding member of that group) and it follows developments in citizen-centered journalism.

Here's Simon Waldman's blog. He's the Director of Digital Publishing for The Guardian in the UK, the world's most Web-savvy newspaper. What he says counts.

Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

Davos Newbies is a "year-round Davos of the mind," written from London by Lance Knobel. He has a cosmopolitan sensibility and a sharp eye for things on the Web that are just... interesting. This is the hardest kind of weblog to do well. Knobel does it well.

Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

CJR Daily is Columbia Journalism Review's weblog about the press and its problems, edited by Steve Lovelady, formerly of the Philadelpia Inquirer.

Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

Syndicate this site:

XML Summaries

XML Full Posts

September 22, 2005

Charging for Columnists: Notes and Comment on the Launch of TimesSelect

"If one faction wanted to go the Wall Street Journal's pay wall route, and another wanted to remain free like the Post, then TimesSelect is not a hypothesis for how to succeed on the Web, but just a mid-point between competing theories. That alone is reason to worry."

“Despite all that has happened, I still think that The New York Times has a stature and a position of journalistic authority that is greater than any news organization in the world. Could that be destroyed? I believe that it could be.”— Alex S. Jones, former reporter, New York Times, co-author of The Trust, a history of the Sulzberger family, in Business Week, January 17, 2005.

I agree with Jones: it could be. And I have some thoughts on the launch of TimesSelect, the new premium content package from the New York Times, which throws the columnists behind a pay wall, and opens the archives to Select subscribers. (For the basics, see the Washington Post’s story; Len Apcar’s note to users.)

“We have been tested many times in our 154-year history as we are being tested now.” That’s Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. and CEO Janet Robinson in Tuesday’s note to staff about a new round of layoffs at New York Times Company (500 jobs company-wide.) The launch of TimesSelect is a big part of “being tested.” On the line is the company’s wisdom about itself, the Web and the place of its flagship newspaper in the new information order.

It will be easy enough to know whether it’s working. How many people sign up and pay the $49.95? It will be harder to know if there’s damage to the Times brand caused by the new pay walls. “He’s looking for significant numbers,” writes Editor & Publisher’s Steve Outing about Martin Nisenholtz, president of New York Times Digital. “The goal won’t be met with TimesSelect subscription numbers in the tens of thousands, Nisenholtz says; it needs to be in the hundreds of thousands in the early years, and even more over the long term.” There’s your scorecard.

I think they might reach their goals, at least at first. (For some users the archive alone will be worth the price.) Outing explains the bet:

One factor that Nisenholtz thinks will encourage people to pay to keep reading the Op-Ed crew is the notion of the “Times loyalist” — perhaps 1.5 million to 2 million readers who are devoted to the New York Times brand, and spend significantly more time reading than they do other news sites. With them, he claims, their willingness to fork over “the equivalent to buying a few martinis” for an annual subscription could be expected.

As I said, they’re being tested on this logic, and what it might overlook even where it makes sense. The National Review’s Jonah Goldberg thinks it plays narrowly to the (liberal) Times base. If liberals are more willing to buy premium access, and conservatives less, doesn’t that make TimesSelect an ideological purifier?

Outing: “Steve Klein, an online journalism professor at George Mason University, says one of his students raised an excellent point during a class discussion this week about TimesSelect: ‘Even if the Times picked up most of its existing online readers, how are they going to grow a new generation of online Op-Ed readers if they keep the columnists behind a pay firewall?’ Good question.”

Yes, it is. My own questions start with this sentence in the corporate side’s press release, describing TimesSelect as “a new product offering subscribers exclusive online access to the distinctive voices of the Op-Ed, Business, Metro and Sports columnists of The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune (IHT).”

The phrase “exclusive online accesss” advertises two different goods. The first good is the work of the Times columnists themselves. The proposition that some will pay for that is hard to prove until you try, but it’s simple to understand. The second good being advertised is exclusivity. You, the lucky TimesSelect subscriber, have access to these voices. Others do not. The value proposition there is muddled. If we prize up-to-date information about petroleum markets, we might value it more—and pay a premium—if the news is exclusively available to paying customers; but do we value Nicholas D. Kristof’s column more if he’s an “exclusive?”

We don’t. In fact, it’s probably the reverse. If everyone is reading a columnist, that makes the columnist more of a must have. If “everyone” isn’t, less of a must. “Exclusive online access” attacks the perception of ubiquity that is part and parcel of a great columnist’s power. In his prime Walter Lippmann was called “the name that opened every door.” Nick Kristof’s brand of human rights journalism, which depends on the mobilization of outrage, is simply less potent if it can’t reach widely around the world, and pass by every door.

Staci Karmer of interviewed Nisenholtz just before the big launch:

Despite the darkest musings of the blogosphere about dissolving the Op-Ed columnists’ relevancy by removing them from the free market, Nisenholtz insists, “Tom Friedman’s ideas, Maureen Dowd’s ideas are going to be as vibrant in my view, as important the day after as the day before.” At another point, he says, “I hope there are enough people who matter in the world who are going to continue to read the (22) columnists.” [He knows] the site is going to take an immediate traffic hit. “We think that within six months we’re going to be right back to where we were are now,” says Nisenholtz.

We’ll see. I’m not aware that Maureen Dowd has any ideas, beyond comparing politics to high school. She has a sensibility, and readers may go to her for that. If you want me to pay for your author’s sensibility, I might, if you’ve signed up Isaiah Berlin.

It’s not often discussed, but the free Web edition has transformed the work of foreign correspondents, and of columnists like Kristof and Thomas L. Friedman who write from abroad. Say you’re reporting from Cairo and based there. Pre-Web, only a handful of people in Egypt would ever read your story; they would get it three weeks later in an envelope mailed from the U.S. Most of those you interviewed—your sources—would never see the results of your reporting. Although they might be keen to know what the American press said about them, the material was out of reach.

Now, because of the Web edition, everyone in government, business and academic life has read your stories— and plenty of taxis drivers and schoolteachers, too. From Cairo to Ohio, readers bring to the transaction an awareness of all the other readers doing the same thing. The Times Company’s press release does not seem to realize that “exclusive” opinions are not more valuable than “widely-circulated” ones— and it’s possible they will count for less.

The other phrase that spoke to me from the official-ese was “distinctive voices.” As in “the distinctive voices of the Op-Ed, Business, Metro and Sports columnists.” But how distinct are these voices? Does Bob Herbert write about forgotten Americans in a distinctly different voice, or in a NAACP-big-city-outraged-liberal-Democrat one? If I were Martin Nisenholtz, one of my worries would be over-estimating the marketplace value, and misstating the unique selling proposition of a Herbert, a Maureen Dowd, a David Brooks. When I read Dave Anderson in sports he sounds like every other sports columnist, even when he’s on target.

Big-traffic bloggers Glenn Reynolds and Hugh Hewitt were discussing this on Hewett’s radio show this week. The question was whether flood-the-zone, real time reportage by weblog was the way to go for newspapers faced with a big news event like an approaching storm.

Reynolds: The New York Times thinks it’s going to make money selling op-eds, but hard news reporting is the killer ap for news media organizations. If they want to come up with opinion, they’re competing with guys like me, and we can kick Paul Krugman’s butt any day. If they do hard news gathering, and they actually report what’s happening, and they report it straight and fast, they can go toe to toe with blogs pretty darn well.

I assure you, they are chuckling in newsrooms about just possibly being able to compete “toe to toe” with bloggers in reporting a big moving story. Maybe they shouldn’t be chuckling, but they are. I think Reynolds was basically right about the columnists and kicking Krugman’s butt. (See Business Week Online: “Is Paul Krugman Worth $49.95?”) If I draft a PressThink post on a topic in the news, and it doesn’t offer a lot more than a typical newspaper op-ed, I won’t click “publish.” (Example: compare this column on Katrina and the press to this post.)

That’s part of my unique selling proposition: if you’re in the market, you get more if you stop by PressThink. Similarly, Josh Marshall is far more valuable to me than Krugman and Herbert combined. They have been slow to make best use of the Web. He’s been Web-savvy and smart. Mickey Kaus of Kausfiles: “like reading a lefty-liberal-economist? Can’t pay for Krugman? Try … Brad De Long!” Kaus has an amusing riff on an alternative “monetizing” scheme, called TimesDelete:

…for $19.95 a month, say, TimesDelete’s premium subscribers could vote on one op-ed columnist to take an extended vacation. If more people picked Krugman rather than Brooks, Krugman would get his salary plus a bonus on the condition that he maintain a meaningful silence for several weeks. The race would be tight every month, I should imagine, with Republicans and Democrats trying to outvote each other. But you can’t play if you don’t pay!

Steve Lovelady of CJR Daily said he doesn’t get it, either. From a comment thread at PressThink:

Opinionated commentary is a dime a dozen. The blogosphere is crawling with it, of every stripe. As well as rants, screeds, and moonbat manifestos of all sorts. That’s not a USP (unique selling point) for the big news engines. Their USP is the depth and breadth of their reporting. So why give away your USP for FREE while you’re CHARGING for the stuff — opinions — that the world already has too much of?

The entire field of opinion writing has been transformed by the Web, and it’s not just the bloggers doing their thing. Take a look at this page, and imagine the Times columnists have gone missing. Is that a problem for the page, or more of a problem for the Times? Then there’s the blogger override of the pay wall. No one knows how often this will happen. But check out this site, Never Pay Retail, which is nothing but links to where you can find the Times Columnists for free on the Web.

The Times realized that the value of the columnists had to be enhanced. So they pressed them to do more for subscribers. Business Week called it “the big draw” in the $49.95 package. (I disagree: the archive dating back to 1981—soon back to 1851—is the big draw.) Here’s the added value they forsee: more interaction and multi-media features involving the columnists. BW says:

… columnists will engage in extracurricular activities with subscribers. John Tierney will oversee a book club and related discussions. Paul Krugman will host online classes pertaining to international finance, under the rubric “Money Talks.” The sports columnists will gather for a twice-monthly chat. In “Everyone’s a Critic,” Frank Rich will post online observations and invite readers to debate sundry cultural topics, and Thomas L. Friedman will respond to reader mail.

Does it seem to you they’re having trouble with the value proposition? It seems so to me. The Times columnists aren’t experts or oracles. Thomas Friedman isn’t an authority on globalization; he’s a artful rhetorician, building stories around facts. Much of his value derives from the perception that “everyone” is reading him. Eliot Pierce, the product manager for TimesSelect, made note of certain advantages in fewer, better readers. (Via E & P.)

Pierce says the TimesSelect model gives him hope that the interaction that columnists will promote through these initiatives will be of a high quality. High-level conversation isn’t impossible with a mass free audience, he says, but the smaller pool of people paying for this likely will be more engaged; there likely will be less potential for flames and nastiness.

There’s some truth in that. Still, none of the columnists seem inclined to the “readers know more than I do” perspective that ex-columnist Dan Gillmor developed by blogging. That would be an exciting departure. At Media Bistro, David Hirschman interviewed Diane McNulty, Group Director of Community Affairs and Media Relations, who made this statement:

TimesSelect subscribers can create or view hyperlinks to the full text of the columns. Non-subscribers will see a brief summary of the column. We expect to have an affiliate program for bloggers in place by the end of the year that will offer bloggers financial incentives to link to TimesSelect content.

Hmmm. Financial incentives to link to the Times… Say, if I link to David Brooks today because the Times offers me money to do so, isn’t that like payola? I e-mailed McNulty for an explanation, and what I got was a reversal. Apparently she misspoke in the interview. There are no incentives to link to Times content:

Jay, Thanks for asking about that.

There has been some confusion over how the affiliate program we are developing for TimesSelect will work. To clarify, we expect to have such an affiliate program in place by the end of the year. It will provide incentives for bloggers and others who generate, through advertising links on their sites, new subscriptions to TimesSelect. These links will be clearly marked as advertisements and appear as either text links or banner ads. It is not The Times’s intention to have bloggers use RSS feeds of editorial content as a way to promote TimesSelect.

Diane McNulty
Group Director of Community Affairs and Media Relations

Okay, thanks: so no payola. (Staci Kramer has more.) Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan wrote this on Tuesday of debut week: “Memo to Arthur Sulzberger: I would have linked to John Tierney’s excellent NYT op-ed today on how Wal-Mart is better able to deal with natural disasters than FEMA. But only Times Select readers can read the link. So I won’t. Nyah nyah.” (See also JD Lasica.) But the more telling comment was his announcement of a deal he struck with the Washington Post:

Here’s an interesting contrast: next Tuesday, this blog is going to be streamed to the Washington Post’s online opinion section. WaPo, unlike the NYT, is trying to reach out to bloggers and increase the interaction between old and new media. They approached me; and I’m always up for an experiment. WaPo will carry my lede item at any given time, and a couple of teaser headlines for the rest. I have no idea what to expect; and neither do they. But it’s one of the first real cooperative ventures between an independent blog and the MSM.

Sullivan adds: “Ironic, isn’t it, that the day the NYT shuts its opinion pages off from free access, the WP actually opens its doors to independent bloggers?”

Doc Searls: “This whole thing looks like an ugly political compromise between warring factions inside the paper.” That’s my sense too, based on what I have heard. If one faction wanted to go the Wall Street Journal’s pay route, and another wanted to remain free like the Post, then TimesSelect is not a hypothesis for how to succeed on the Web, but a mid-point between competing strategies. That alone is reason to worry.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

I was a guest on Christopher Lydon’s radio show, Open Source, where the topic for the hour was TimesSelect (Oct. 5). With Rich Meislen, associate managing editor for Internet Publishing at the Times, Staci Kramer of, and Ben Hammersley of the Guardian blog section. Summary and audio.

Micah Sifry: “The TimesSelect experiment, which I think will fail, is a great example of how the business side is dominating the editorial side of that institution online.”

Craig Newmark of at his craigblog:

This applies, or maybe contrasts, to how at craigslist we figure out what to charge for. In our case, we ask people. We’re doing that right now regarding charging apartment brokers in NY.

Users, what should we charge for? I wonder what would have happened if the Times popped the question at the site. (Here, for example.) Newmark also says that estimating the value of a columnist “reminds me of the tipping point in the value of fax machines… they became much more valuable when a lot of people had ‘em.”

Why trackback is dead. It’s not just the spam. Scroll down and you’ll see this post has three official trackbacks, according to Movable Type software I’m using. But a BlogPulse tracking search shows 29 blogs that linked to it. (Google blog search shows 27, but many duplicates in there.) A mechanism that records ten percent of what it’s tracking is dead. Is there something I’m missing?

Dan Gillmor of Bayosphere: “Count me among the naysayers.” He calls it the “anti-Web pay-wall.”

Ben Vershbow replies at if:book. (Institute for the Future of the Book)

… the Times is seriously overvaluing its columnists, or worse, de-valuing them by placing them behind a pay wall. If I were Tierney, or Kristof or Dowd, I would be furious. It makes them look like preened show dogs when everyone else is duking it out in the commons for all to read. Seems like a one-way ticket to irrelevance. Plus, soon they’re going to have to take part in all sorts of online chats and seminars with Select subscribers - I bet they’ll really start to chafe then.

Doc Searls replies at his weblog. His position is: needs more tinkering. “There’s a market model that will work someday. The Times is right to try figuring one out.”

Charge for the news, recycle the olds. That’s the same business we’ve always had in the daily print news business, and I think it will leverage just fine on the Web.

The only problem with that is having no live Web presence, right? So, a suggestion: take everything but breaking news off the home page (which is way too crapped up with clutter anyway). Make it clear that subscribers get to see the rest of today’s news today. Make links to today’s news work tomorrow, even if only subscribers see those links today.

That way the paywall for each story or column is up only for 24 hours, and down for the rest of time. That way the paper gets plenty of authority and influence from having its full archives on the Web in searchable and linkable form. News customers get to pay for what they’ve always paid for. And hey, maybe once the high value of fresh news gets full respect from its producers, the papers will start making customers out of its consumers.

Makes a lot of sense. Italics are mine. Doc e-mails, Sep. 25: “The real challenge will come when the car companies, financial houses and big retail houses stop spending money on newspapers. Won’t happen instantly, but it will happen. In fact, it’s happening already with retail, I believe.”

Mickey Kaus says: “We Want the Overnights!”

Q.: Does the NYT have the subscriber totals for the triumphant first days of TimesSelect, its new pay-for-columnists feature?

A: Of course it does.

Q.: If those numbers were any good, wouldn’t the NYT be telling us about them?

A: Of course it would!

More (Sep. 25): Kaus keeps the pressure on. “TimesSelect has apparently shut down maintenance of the highly useful library of Paul Krugman columns at the UnOfficial Paul Krugman Archive…” Plus (Sep. 26) Kaus on what Chinese authorities could learn from TimesSelect.

Kos weighs in, calling the Times the “textbook definition of stupid.”

They take the one part of the paper that is a commodity — the opinion — and try to charge for that. No Krugman? Who cares. Give me Brad DeLong. No Bob Herbert? Whatever. Give me James Wolcott or anyone at the American Prospect or Washington Monthly. Or any of the thousands of columnists at other newspapers, and the tens of thousands of political bloggers.

“In this world, no one is special, no one is irreplaceable,” says Markos. “In the old world of syndicated columnists, that might bruise some egos.”

Steve Outing at the Poynter site:

I must say, it’s disturbing to see some of my favorite columnists vanish except for a single website. (I did purchase a TimesSelect subscription.) While I think that enough people will sign up for TimesSelect for the Times to make some decent money, I fear that the paper’s influence — led by its most known writers who have had worldwide reach — will wane.

And that certainly is the consensus of people who’ve written to me in reaction to my E&P column.

PressThink, A Little Detail in the Sale of to the New York Times. (Feb. 20, 2005)

More and more, we hear about a big battle that is either here or coming inside the Times over whether to charge users for online access, as the Wall Street Journal currently does. If that happens and the Washington Post remains free, the paths of those two great news organizations will, I believe, diverge.

I think they are diverging. Best blog post I have seen on this is the subtle analysis from chez Nadezhda:

I expect the difference in the two approaches will in the long run have an impact on the content of the two newspapers and ultimately their philosophy of what it means to be a news organization. The NYT proposes to continue to “deliver” its “product.” The Post, by contrast, is becoming a portal to a dynamic network of content, only a portion of which is home-grown…

Well worth it if you’re interested in the two paths.

Go read Karl Martino: Newspaper’s “Black Tuesday.” You will be smarter and maybe even inspired. Also see on the newsroom cutbacks in Philadelphia Dan Rubin in Blinq: Newspaper Days, a smart survery of reactions to the bleak economic news.

Bill Quick at Daily Pundit is skeptical: “I give it six months.”

Hmmm. Soccer Dad on getting around Times select.

Bob Cauthorn at Corante, Newspapers, meet precipice. It’s not about “brand,” he says. That’s what they say when they don’t want to fix the product.

If newspapers fix their print products circulation will grow — change format, revive local coverage, alter the hierarchical approach to the news, open the ears of the newsrooms and get reporters back on the street where they belong. If you want to get really daring, re-imagine print newspapers as a three-day a week product rather than as a seven-day a week product.

As a practical matter, print newspapers only make money three days a week anyway. Imagine the interplay between a seven day a week digital product and a densely focused (and wildly profitable) three-day a week print product . Each doing different things. Each serving readers and advertisers in different ways.

Jon Friedman of Marketwatch on this week’s news about staff reductions:

It should be noted that the same New York Times news release ended like this:

“The company plans to manage the staff reductions in such a way that it continues to provide journalism of the highest quality, to function smoothly on a day-to-day basis and to achieve its long-term strategic goals.”

Whew. It’s a relief to see that the Times intends to put out just as great a newspaper as always with fewer resources than ever. Now, the Times senior management team can turn its attention to climbing Mt. Everest, stopping the violence in Iraq and parting the Red Sea.

Posted by Jay Rosen at September 22, 2005 11:08 AM   Print


I have my doubts as to the value of multimedia -- podcasting / video requires capabilities from pundits they may not have, and competing software standards and formats (QuickTime vs. RealPlayer vs. WMP) means they'll need more support staff, not less, to create and maintain the content.

I also suspect they've missed an opportunity for true dialoguing. Are Times Select subscribers guaranteed the ability to post feedback or commentary on a columnist's work? Because I don't see a blog-style commenting feature mentioned on the TimesSelect solicitation page.

Posted by: VictorWong at September 22, 2005 12:02 PM | Permalink

As I indicated in the earlier thread, Times Select makes sense only as the first part of an eventual plan to make all (or almost all) of the NYTimes On-Line into a "subcription only" site.

(a related question -- does anyone know how successful the approach has been? ie providing "day-passes" allowing non-subscribers to read Salon's content if they sit through a net-ad.)

Posted by: ami at September 22, 2005 12:12 PM | Permalink

From the Times Select page:
"TimesSelect is a new service from The New York Times providing exclusive online access to Op-Ed columnists."

New service? How is restricting access a new service. That's like calling China's content blocking a "feature".

Posted by: KirkH at September 22, 2005 12:26 PM | Permalink

On one hand, it is easy to penetrate the wall as many bloggers are doing and posting "clean" free links to NYT op-eds (Perhaps their techies will work on this). Other bloggers are pasting entire op-eds onto their blogs stating that this constitute "fair use" as the wal is inteslf "unfair".

At the same time, the whole thing did not appear to bother too many bloggers. There is other good stuff out there, mainly bloggers who know more about their subject (expertise) than any NYT editorialist.

Posted by: coturnix at September 22, 2005 1:07 PM | Permalink

If the goal is to boost revenue & brand-name value later after taking a supposedly temporary hit now, I just don't see it working. A Kausfiles reader who appears in the link you provide summarized much of what you're saying here quite well:

Do we read the times op-ed page and argue with it because it's that good, or because we know that the NYT website gets 29 million readers a month (which few free sites do) and we want to comment on ideas that "most people are reading"...

Another thing: isn't following a different strategy simply by keeping everything free. They are creating an entirely new system. It includes reporting, blogging, and multiple interactions with readers. As much as I criticize the Post from my generally righty perspective, I don't think many observers appreciate the scope of their offerings. It includes a new partnership with Technorati that carries a box next to stories, listing bloggers who have linked to it; online-only columnists; blogs by columnists, some of which permit reader comments; speciality blogs for events like the Supreme Court nominations; some behind-the-scenes snapshots that are actually interesting (I detest cartoonist Tom Coles' political views but I love a rough-draft feature I stumbled on the other day, showing him working out an idea that didn't make it to print); and many live chats every single day, both with Post staffers like Howard Kurtz and guests from all sides of the political spectrum.

I mean it's overwhelming. A poor little right-wing-conspiracy blogger like myself can't even do a proper inventory, never mind a comprehensive critique.

I have no idea how much money is losing on this right now, but operationally and strategically, it seems to me, they are in an utterly different league than the NYT. How lame does throwing a few columnists behind a subscriber wall look, in comparison? Can you say "buggy whip?"

Posted by: Christopher Fotos at September 22, 2005 1:09 PM | Permalink

The top Times Select articles at the moment are:

President Bush is trying to put more hacks and cronies into important jobs.

Americans are finally catching onto the utter incompetence of the Bush Administration.

If President Bush wants to make anything of his second term, he should make a quest for energy independence the moon shot of our generation.

If only the left are paying for articles the Times might have a hard time being objective.

Posted by: KirkH at September 22, 2005 1:56 PM | Permalink

The most exciting part of this move is the one you cited, which is the move to digitize the old NYT archives and put them online for a reasonable all-inclusive fee. Incidentally, this is only part of the Times Select that actually opens up more content to the web public, and it is the only bit I'd pay for. I probably will pay for it, too.

I wouldn't necessarily assume that the change in pricing models for this vitally important and unique historical content isn't as significant as the firewalling off of the Times' Op-Ed columnists.

Posted by: Matt Stoller at September 22, 2005 2:04 PM | Permalink

If only the left are paying for articles the Times might have a hard time being objective.
Posted by: KirkH

More to the point, if the readership decides that only the liberal columnists are worth paying for ... then sooner or later, some beancounter at the Times charged with holding down costs is going to ask the indelicate question:
"If nobody wants Brooks or Tierney, why are we paying them small fortunes to continue writing?"
Talk about an efficiently brutal market place ! This is it. And it's all happening nakedly in plain sight.
I'm not sure I wanna watch, Mom.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at September 22, 2005 2:30 PM | Permalink

My first reaction was "Halleluja! Tom Friedman is halfway to rehab." No more wistful stories about trains running on time in Singapore. And I thought it was somehow poignant that the paper expects readers to pay for the privilege of viewing videos introducing the columnists.

The only opinion-related item that could induce me to part with $50 is the access log for the section. I wonder to what extent the content providers were involved in the decision.

Posted by: weldon berger at September 22, 2005 4:00 PM | Permalink

Ah, but if I pay (which I never will), I don't care for Krugman - he just has a keen sense of the obvious. His kind of stuff can be found - often with more detail, more links to the trustworthy sources, and even better insights - on many blogs.

I am much more interested in getting my paws on the latest Brooks column so I can ravage his half-baked folk-sociology rants on my blog.

Posted by: coturnix at September 22, 2005 4:07 PM | Permalink

The wierd thing with the WSJ analogy is that the WSJ does exactly the opposite of the NYT approach: its free OpinionJournal site has its op-ed essays and editorials, while its reporting is behind the paywall.

Posted by: Foobarista at September 22, 2005 4:19 PM | Permalink

Foobarista: I guess they're both playing to their relative strengths.

Posted by: weldon berger at September 22, 2005 9:09 PM | Permalink

Taking Jonah Goldberg's conspiracy theory for a second: why would the Times want ideological purificiation? If they're making money off of a bunch of ideological conservatives who read Krugman and Dowd to be outraged (think the Rush principle in reverse), the Times makes money.

On the topic in general: my life has become such a media gluttony that (as bad as it sounds) I rarely read anything that doesn't have an RSS feed anymore because it feels that inconvienent. I love Tom Friedman's writing style, I love the columns, but if it doesn't fit into my overall reading strategy, I can't get it done twice a week. I'm not sure why good-ol-fashioned advertising doesn't work.

Posted by: Chase Nordengren at September 22, 2005 9:59 PM | Permalink

It seems to me that publications made a wrong turning when going on to the web: the rates they charged for ads were way too low, and now they'd have a hard time raising them. Compared to rates for the print publication, they're a pittance. Why the steep discount? Why pay per clickthrough? I can't clickthrough the ad in the paper -- the advertiser has little way to really figure out whether I A) looked at it or B) bought anything because of it except in the most general sort of way. But print ads cost way more.

If I ever started selling display ads on H2otown, I'd base what I charge on what the local paper charges, not what rates Google returns. And I'd use be a flat fee per time period, not clickthrough. I think very few publications can survive on clickthrough and Google ad traffic unless they write about an insanely keyword friendly topic 100% of the time. Not true for general interest publications.

Posted by: Lisa Williams at September 22, 2005 11:27 PM | Permalink

Back in 1996, I sat in meetings with my publisher (I was the editor in chief of a state magazine) and talked about how to do a web presence. Granted, it was very early in this emerging platform. But people came and made pitches. (Jeff Jarvis came to my little hole in the wall and made a pitch that we link up with Advance--for a fee.)

It was very hard to see what would work at that time. I had ideas about the web, that putting up our 6,000 word story was not the best use, but maybe the listings or shorter pieces. All the publisher thought about was money. How could we do this fast and easy without losing, and preferably making, money?

I think that's the Times mentality today. They didn't really consider the big picture, the impact on the rest of the business. They didn't look hard at what other places are doing, or think about what would happen next. Instead, they assumed the position of the bigfoot newspaper, and figured they'd take their most emailed stories and make them inaccessible.

That's a pretty flat-earth view of the web. They remind me of me and my publisher, back in 1996.

Incidentally, my best suggestion was to take our listing of bridal reception sites that we published, and then sell links to the sites' homepaages for a small fee. Making money off links. It was actually the right idea, but I don't think we ever did it.

Posted by: JennyD at September 23, 2005 7:47 AM | Permalink

Looks to me like the WSJ got it right seveal years ago. Pay for hard news, get the opinion for free. But we knew they were better business people.

Posted by: Jake at September 23, 2005 10:09 AM | Permalink

The Economist has a pretty good model; most articles have a free sentence about what they are about (with a Title), and a few of them are free. Others are open to subscribers.

But while I like the Economist, I think Glenn plus other bloggers does a better job.

Most news IS, and will be, INFOTAINMENT. Unless it changes a decision you make, and little news does that, it has no direct value.

News junkies prolly have a form of vanity "knowledge superiority", where we think we're better because we know more. But if knowlegeable folk disagree about a policy, like SS privatization or war in Iraq, why should a less knowlegeable person think gaining more info will help them make a better decision/ vote? Only if they enjoy arguing with others who are interested in the same policy.

Most "normal" folk would rather just root for the home team in the upcoming game.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at September 23, 2005 10:52 AM | Permalink


The wierd thing with the WSJ analogy is that the WSJ does exactly the opposite of the NYT approach: its free OpinionJournal site has its op-ed essays and editorials, while its reporting is behind the paywall.

What's valuable today? Information that comes with a high degree of confidence and carries predictive power.

What's parsley? Politicized opinion, infotainment, stenographic reporting and "analysis" of the obvious.

I think we are in the middle of a paradigm shift that will divide information and commentary into two basic categories: 1. Basic, "unwarranteed" communication, which will continue to be too cheap to meter; 2. Value-added information, which will abandon our Old School value of "fairness" for a model based on the daily intelligence briefing.

When we talk about "objectivity," we tend to talk about its limits. We don't tend to talk about its value. When we talk about commentary, we talk about its slant. We don't tend to talk about its perceptiveness. Our current frame of reference is a newspaper/broadcast model that is based on certain assumptions about "gatekeeper functions," "credibility," "balance," and the mass audience.

When you adopt an intelligence agency perspective, the information gatherer and the information analyst are working for a specific end user, not a general, passive audience.

This is a radically different relationship. Your loyalty is to your subscriber, not to your sources, not to your political friends. Your value -- your continued employment, for that matter -- is attached to the quality and utility of your information and your insights.

People will pay for such content, and the networked media makes it possible for more people to access such services. These are, ultimately, the "editors" described in the EPIC 2014 animation.

Will people pay for Times Select? Not unless it has this function.

In fact, I don't understand Times Select at all, unless you connect it to your circulation department. If I subscribe to the NYT print edition and I'm on the road in Portland, do I have to pay for Times Select to read Dowd? If so, how stupid is that?

Posted by: Daniel Conover at September 23, 2005 12:15 PM | Permalink

Christopher mentioned it, but the WAPO-Technorati partnership listing bloggers who have linked to their stories is brilliant. Fully one-half (of my admittedly small) readership is now coming from WaPO; which, of course, means that I am now reading and writing about WaPo reporting instead of the Times. So now the flow of audience is two-way, and I am also in the habit of seeing what every other blogger is writing about that story -- which is expanding that circle of information sharing.

If the goal is to build an community of readers/writers and thus stregthen their brand, WaPo is where it is on-line right now.

Posted by: Daniel Kreiss at September 23, 2005 12:58 PM | Permalink

courtnix feels none of the Times columnists are experts, echoing Jay's point. But Krugman is, in fact, an expert when he's writing about economics.

You might not agree with his opinion, it IS an expert opinion.

KirkH appears to feel mentioning the President's name is a sign of liberal bias.

That's just strange.

Posted by: 16 at September 23, 2005 5:26 PM | Permalink

Daniel K: I agree: the Post is way ahead at this point, and at peace with their decisions so far. Could you explain how that technorati deal works from your end? How does it end up getting you readers?

Daniel Conover: Great post. I think what's hard to convey to people is how different the transaction between "journalist" and "public" (readers, users) could actually be.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 23, 2005 5:34 PM | Permalink

The issue that bugs me the most about this decision to put content behind a paywall is the implication for the future of free knowledge on the Internet. The most amazing thing about the Web is that it is extremely democratic; there are very few examples where your income has an impact on what you are able to read and what you are not. The WSJ is one and now we have the NYT.

My fear is that this is part of a potentially larger trend to a class system on the Internet, where those who can't afford the $50 a year fees for news sources aren't able to see what a millionaire can. Increasingly we are seeing a digital divide between those who can afford high speed and the others being left behind with their dialup, limiting what they can access on the net. We do not need to exacerbate the situation. There is no option for a Salon style day pass, where you subject yourself to an ad before viewing the full content. This is a locked door and if they manage to be successful at making money off of it, then it will encourage others to follow suit.

Posted by: Julia Rosen at September 23, 2005 5:41 PM | Permalink

D. Conover hit the nail on the head. I subscribe to WSJ online but didn't even consider Times Select even though I used to (a week ago) be a daily reader of the New York Times online.

Glen Reynolds may have sounded arrogant when he said he could kick Krugman's butt in an op-ed battle but he's right, I've been reading Instapundit instead of NYTimes for the last week.

The only thing of real value now offered by the Times is their encyclopedic archive. An archive that will soon have to compete with the growing usefulness of Wikipedia.

Posted by: KirkH at September 23, 2005 6:04 PM | Permalink

Hey that's my nice, Julia Rosen. Also doing business as Political Rugger. Thanks, J.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 23, 2005 7:00 PM | Permalink

Gosh, if the NYT really wants people to pay for its abundant content, why not try applying that hot new thing "editing" to its headlines, ledes, copy, Page 1 story selection, Page 1 layout, and "A"-section internal organization?

There's little sign of an editor's hand in any of this -- unlike in the LAT, Washington Post, or WSJ. The Gray Lady is disorganized, almost unreadable, and a waste of unthinkable talent. Big mistake to lock up the paper's single asset (columnists) that everyone really wants to read.

Posted by: A. Reader at September 23, 2005 7:20 PM | Permalink

Microsft AntiSpyware beta1 picked up ...
Trojan.Downloader.adMSI on my computer during a 2am auto-scan, last night. Detail..

I am sure glad to have downloaded this MS freebie from the MS downloads [security] site.

They scan me for everything every night and it's free. How would you like to be *scanned* every night? ok, ok, it's lame. 73 TG

Posted by: TonyGuitar at September 23, 2005 7:55 PM | Permalink

I used to love the New York Times, maybe not like a man loves a woman. But this decision to charge for columnists is one of the worst in a long-line of bad business decisions that proves the management there has no idea about the concept ot good will in business.

From the way they handled the National Writer's Guild lawsuit over electronic rights to the way they screwed free-lance photographers on filing fees to the way they dumped some great reporters as stringers in the wake of Jayson Blair, to this.

As I have already said on my own site, charging for the Times content ends the paper's century-long run as the national newspaper of record. It is over.

The Times links were already getting too long to link to on a news site or blog. The pop up ads and fat, odd-sized ads just get in the way of the online reading experience. There are way too many other ways to get information and commentary to endure that, plus the new charges.

The democracy argument is a good one too. What will students and grad students do? Turn to fast sites with AP and Reuters and the Washington Post.

It is a sad, sad day in American publishing history. I'm sure they will pocket some cash up front, but I predict it won't work in the long-term. They will give it up in less than a year. Their circulation will fall too far too fast and the online advertising revenue will also drop precipitously.

But quite frankly, that is not the worst of the problems for the Times. As I predicted in Editor & Publisher a couple of years ago, they just do not have the reporting power on the ground anymore.

Watch for the New Orleans bureau of AP to walk with some Pulitzers this year. I could have been there for the Times, but no, they like to erect bureaucratic walls as bad as any government or corporate money machine.

The Post is a better read now than the Bill Keller New York Times, except for the editorial page. If the post would find some decent columnists and started up a stringer network like the Times of old, they could own the title newpaper of record for the next few years in a way they never could in the days of print, since they never paid for regional printing and national distribution.

Goodbye NYTimes. Sorry to see you go...

Posted by: gw at September 23, 2005 9:43 PM | Permalink

At the appearance of TimesSelect, I wrote the Times in protest even though, as a home subscriber, I get the "goods" for free (for now). My position is that I would rather subsidize the freeloaders with my home subscription than to see Krugman's plug pulled.

I think Jay, and Kos, are missing something when they bray that they value Josh Marshall's "Talking Points Memo" and/or Brad De Long's Blog more than a Krugman column. It undervalues the platform from which Krugman writes and his authority. Everyone in the Blog-sphere has an opinion, its just that Krugman's are more important because of who he is and where he is broadcasting from.

Krugman, more than most old-line print columnists, reads and cites to the Blogs. There is always a time-lag, but his point is never to get there first, it is rather to legitimize the blog-bluster into something more concrete, through its appearance in Krugman's column. Bloggers don't like to face the disposable quality of their stuff (although they probably are grateful enough for it when they get something wrong). TPM and Kos and TBOG are often moving "stories"; Krugman is working on a deeper level, working in closer to the spine of national debate. When Kos, or Bilmon or some other blogger "goes deep", even when I think they are hitting their stride, it is hard to shake the feeling that they are out of their element and in over their heads.

If TPM has more faster and more often than Krugman, well then any number of blogs beat PressThink to the punch with their rolling almost-daily critiques of print and television reporters, columnists, anchors and hosts. But these instantaneous snarks are qualitatively different than the deeper posts that appear here. It would be just as wrong to say, "Who needs PressThink when we have Atrios?" Frank Rich's columns do not suffer for being less immediate than others that work in his neighborhood. In fact, it is enhanced by Rich's ability to draw a breath, stew on things awhile, compose and then publish from that yet lofty platform. Of course, the Times isn't entirely senile and there is something to their view that the wide web is feeding off the Times credibility (even as they assault it). When the bloggers can meaningfully address and answer these types of mainstream columns, the whole endeavor is enhanced. Even though its only natural for the bloggers to say, "glad to see them gone -- means more for me" they'll miss them when they're gone. If the Times, WSJ and Salon can make good, more and more of the blogsphere will become pay-for-view, and some of the leading lights will cash out and go behind the wall, and the non-commercial blogsphere will drift and disapate. The Times wouldn't be broken up over it.

Posted by: Mark J. McPherson at September 23, 2005 10:19 PM | Permalink

Only millionaires can afford $50 a year? Wow, what a brilliant observation. How much does your cable cost, Ms. Rosen? Your magazine subscriptions? Your cell phone service? Pretty absurd extrapolation.

Posted by: Brian at September 23, 2005 10:58 PM | Permalink

I first wrote about this in January, and I'm sure I've linked it in here in a previous discussion, but given the mention of WSJ it bears repeating.

WSJ can charge because it offers premium information on a subject that helps people make money. That's it. If it kept the financial analysis and reports behind the subscriber curtain and let the news out, it would make little to no difference in its subscription rates. People aren't paying for WSJ's general news. They're paying for its expertise in business news, and they're paying because they can charge it off as a business expense.

And even with that significant advantage, WSJ's recent numbers suggest that its online subscriptions are cannibalizing from print.

NYTimes has none of the criteria for paid content, so it can't charge for content without failing. It's very probably that simple.

Posted by: Cal Lanier at September 23, 2005 11:50 PM | Permalink

Question to ponder: If information is power and change is good, then it would follow that the Times blocking of information... is good?

Ok, pass the aspirin. I just gave myself a headache.

But seriously, another good piece, Jay.

I've started a media analysis column for BlogCritics - the first one is here -
and the second one is going to be on how the Washington Post seems to be embracing the Net and its impact on them while the gray lady seems to be becoming more daft.

You expressed some of the same problems with the short-sighted idea that I'm planning on covering.

Posted by: Scott Butki at September 24, 2005 1:26 AM | Permalink

Critics of registration have made many of the same arguments that are now being made about the TimesSelect model -- it will drive away readers, it will discourage linking, it violates the "open" nature of the web. was one of the first, and for many years remained practically the only major news website to require registration. But look now: All the major newspaper sites have it. The doom and gloom predictions about diminished influence for registration sites have not come to pass, and the Times' competitors have come to the belated conclusion the Times was right all along.

I think the Times was able to be a registration pioneer and still prosper partly because it's THE TIMES. People were willing to put up with a little extra frustration in order to read it. Might enough people also be willing to pony up a few dollars a month?

You've got to keep in mind the power of the Times brand. Granted, that power has a limit, and the Times is testing it with TimesSelect. But if it worked once before...

Posted by: P. Anderson at September 24, 2005 10:29 AM | Permalink

Julia Rosen:

My fear is that this is part of a potentially larger trend to a class system on the Internet, where those who can't afford the $50 a year fees for news sources aren't able to see what a millionaire can. Increasingly we are seeing a digital divide between those who can afford high speed and the others being left behind with their dialup, limiting what they can access on the net. We do not need to exacerbate the situation.

There's an interesting relationship between information and users that may affect its value: Information is more valuable when you're in a position to do something with it.

So who, generally, are the people who pay premiums for information? Investors. Private detectives. Consultants. Spies. Political operatives. Serious gamblers. Fantasy football players.

For these classes, buying quality information is no different than buying advertising or raw materials. It's an investment on which they hope to generate a profitable return.

On the other hand, most of us take little action on information. The only time we "act" on geo-economic-political news (which is the bulk of it) is when we vote. For us, information and news is what makes you look smart at parties. It helps you "get" The Daily Show. It's a combination of cultural connection and entertainment, and it's valuable... but it isn't directly profitable.

The irony is, we already live in a world in which there are huge information gaps. The wealthy and powerful, who maintain their postitions via information, already have access to sources the rest of us lack. We don't see what they've got, so we don't generally miss it.

Networked media gives us choices. We can receive the free info and commentary that everyone else receives, but if we want something more, we can choose to buy it.

Who will buy premium information? People who see value in it. How much will that information cost? Whatever its market will bear. What is the effect of making premium information available via networked (multi-node) media? Generally, to increase access and decrease cost.

The NYT made a poor choice with Times Select, and they'll have to learn their mistake and recover from it. Here it is, in a nutshell: They're selling politainment and tripe (Friedman), not premium information (Krugman being a notable exception). People can get politainment for free everywhere, so why would they pay for it?

To me, the more interesting question becomes: In a fragmented, networked-media information economy, what will be the societal effects of having so many groups with so many disconnected frames of reference?

Posted by: Daniel Conover at September 24, 2005 12:35 PM | Permalink

I'm a subscriber and have been forever, paying hundreds of dollars a year. But in the last year or so I've had a strange thought flash through my mind each time I pick up the copy that has been laid at my door: "You should be paying me, New York Times."

More and more ad-driven sections I would never read, carrying advertisements I never glance at, which are sent to me so I can be included in the subscriber figures, so the Times can charge the advertisers whatever it charges them, and leave me with the problem of recycling their paper, with their ads. How much of what they deliver is even intended for me? On Sundays it's probably, two, three percent.

They should be paying me, right? Anyone ever had this thought?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 24, 2005 4:13 PM | Permalink

Jay, if I can answer for my own part the question you addressed to Daniel (and pardon me if this is blindingly obvious): Next to most every Post story, column, and in my experience online chats, there's a box called Who's Blogging. In theory every blogger who links to any of the above will automatically appear, in that box. (I do a technorati ping just to make sure). The box has room for three bloggers, and when the fourth link happens, the first guy is bumped off that box but there's a "more" link you can click on to see everyone.

I say in theory because its behavior has been unpredictable. When it was first activated (a day or so after sent press releases to bloggers, 24 hours before the announcement was made through normal channels), I could post an item with a link to a Post story and within 20 minutes I would turn up in that bloggers' box. Since then, however, it can take anywhere from five or six hours to "never" for a post to appear there.

One of my blogger friends suggested this may be some kind of spam control (indeed, one of the early "Who's Blogging" links was to "Free Credit Report"). And since I often post links to 10 or more separate WaPo items a day, it may be that I'm thrown back in some kind of queueing system. That would help explain why, on occasions when I've posted to a story that only had my comment attached to it, it will still often take six hours before I show up.

And yet when I check other bloggers' time stamp against when they show up, sometimes it happens much more rapidly.

Another problem is the sheer number of bloggers who are discovering this. There are some stories that have had 50 or 60 bloggers commenting on it. It's a problem because any one blogger will get less attention for that story--and yet as a measure of interest, it's undeniable.

In any case, it does generate hits coming in. I don't mean to be critical per se; this is a great partnership and my impression is that WaPo gets all this bloggy stuff so much more than the Times.

Posted by: Christopher Fotos at September 24, 2005 5:10 PM | Permalink

P. Anderson wrote:

I think the Times was able to be a registration pioneer and still prosper partly because it's THE TIMES. People were willing to put up with a little extra frustration in order to read it.

You overestimate both the significance and the benefit of the registration wall to the Times. Sites like were created (and became popular) specifically because people refused to debate the stupidity of the Times (and subsequently all papers) desire to hide behind a regwall.

(Heck, I wrote a little script that automatically generated a useless registration whenever I wanted to read a Times story. Looking at my logs, it appears that I have created 287 of these registrations in the past 8 months alone.)

You may consider that "being willing to put up with a little frustration". I consider it .005 seconds of CPU time well spent--and more than a little frustration to the Times marketers who were trying to make use of their registration database. I don't consider it an example of pioneering behavior by the Times. This continues to be my opinion now that they have supplemented their regwall with a paywall.

The regwall was a minor nuisance easily circumvented (by token registrations for complacent readers, by BugMeNot for annoyed ones). The paywall will be just as easily circumvented by the "information wants to be free" crowd, but--far more damaging to the Times--will fade Sulzberger Jr's enterprise into irrelevance as the majority of people realize they simply don't need the Times brand of infopinoin.

Posted by: DeMoreo Jones at September 24, 2005 6:51 PM | Permalink

Thanks uncle, though I have less time these days to update my personal blog as a I am working full time on the California ballot campaign over at

Only millionaires can afford $50 a year? Wow, what a brilliant observation. How much does your cable cost, Ms. Rosen? Your magazine subscriptions? Your cell phone service? Pretty absurd extrapolation.

Yes I realize that $50 to most people who frequent this blog is not a lot of money, but we are not most people. Let's try this comparison, the current newstand price for the NYT is what a dollar? Anyone who wants to read Krugman can spend a pretty nominal amount for that priveledge. What is the net equivelent to that? It is time spent viewing an advertisement. For the NYT Select it is $50.

Back to my original point, I am viewing this through the lense of it being a potential step towards more of these $50 fees. Pay walls existing where once information sources were freely accessable. If the NYT manages to make money off of their Times Select others will naturally follow suit. It is not just us bloggers that use the information that the NYT columnists provide. I can remember a number of occasions when I have cited a columnist doing research either as a high schooler or in college. Will those in the upper classes and libraries be the ones able to access something that used to be free? Where does this stop? What happens if it doesn't?

Posted by: Julia Rosen at September 24, 2005 7:48 PM | Permalink

"... and they [ WSJ behind-the-paywall customers ] are paying because they can charge it off as a business expense." -- Cal Lanier

Bingo !

One more reason Times Select will fail. There aren't too many people out there who can charge off Tom Friedman, or Paul Krugman, or David Brooks, as a business expense.

Op-ed columnists are, by definition, trying to start a conversation. But, online, no one pays for a conversation -- not even this conversation. (Think about it; If they were willing to pay for opinion, or even for a clash of opinions, Jay would be a very rich man, and all of us contributors would be getting a cut of the take.)
As Conover noted, those who pay want data, not opinion. They pay for information -- not for a conversation.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at September 24, 2005 8:36 PM | Permalink

Hmmm... I hadn't anticipated this, but it's interesting, if not actually really important: The Public Editor remains free, and he is currently waging a campaign against the Times columnists renowned difficulties with, shall we say, facts. The latest is here where he takes Krugman and Collins to task again, while writing at length on Stanley (the tv critic). Meanwhile, one can't actually read the offending columnists unless one is a Select subscriber. Tracking the Public Editor experiment will soon be like listening to half a telephone conversation, unless one is ready to shell out $50 (which I am not, of course, as I read the columnists for the most part with the same motivation that I stop to gawk at a car accident).

Posted by: Lee Kane at September 24, 2005 9:27 PM | Permalink

Steve -- I do agree that people in general won't pay for a conversation (though there are succesful "for pay" bulletin board sites out there). However, I think the Times columnists pretend to far more than being conversation starters. They are quasi-authorities, even in Krugman's case, real experts (or at least so-called) in their fields and they presume to offer up a lot more than an opinion but actual analysis. I think people will pay for very good, accurate analysis. In my opinion, however, the Times rogues gallery does not offer that, not seriously. It's mostly bomb-throwing. Really, would you trust the opinion of any of these people regarding anything you'd put your wallet up against? Well, we are about to find out, I think. As a counter example it seems there are at least some people willing to pay for, say, Strategic Forecasting and quite a bit too. They bill themselves as intelligence and analysis. If we had that from the Times columnists, I think the experiment would succeed.

Posted by: Lee Kane at September 24, 2005 9:36 PM | Permalink

Yes I realize that $50 to most people who frequent this blog is not a lot of money, but we are not most people. Let's try this comparison, the current newstand price for the NYT is what a dollar? Anyone who wants to read Krugman can spend a pretty nominal amount for that priveledge. What is the net equivelent to that? It is time spent viewing an advertisement. For the NYT Select it is $50.

I am completely confused by this paragraph. Maybe I'm just too drunk to comprehend it. But if you're dropping a buck a day on the NYT, $50/year seems like a bargain. And, as you yourself point out, any vagrant can wander into the nearest public library and read it all for free. WHERE'S THE OUTRAGE?

Look, it's easy for the iPod generation to squeal like stuck pigs whenever they're asked to pay a dime for anything. The 90s dotcom bubble apparently convinced many people that everything should be free and business plans are for suckers. Is TimesSelect a dumb idea? Of course it is, but not because NYT wants to turn a profit so it can pay its staff.

The real story is that NYT has learned nothing from the rise of weblogs. They think the exclusive content is the stuff you can get anywhere else for nothing--the stuff that has no intrinsic value: opinion. (These are the same people who paid good money for

Even the archives--are they worth anything except to other journalists, or maybe college students who need a reference for their term papers? How many people sit at home thinking, "If only I could search the NYT archives for hurricane stories from 1982-1988! For free!" Answer: very few people.

Pace Lovelady, most people won't even pay for information, which is everywhere, they'll just pay to be amused. Do NYT columnists amuse? Well, yes and no. Maybe the real story is that the columnist vocation is nearing the end of its lifespan. Can't say I'll miss it.

Posted by: Brian at September 24, 2005 11:44 PM | Permalink

Jay and others, I just wrote my second media analysis piece for Blog Critics. It should do a trackback when it's published. I made points similar to some of yours although I did not realize that coincidence until late in the game.

Steve, I like your point about the business expense. That is one argument I've heard but have been unable to track down as far as something I can definitely prove. But my hunch is you're right.

Posted by: Scott Butki at September 25, 2005 12:16 AM | Permalink

"They should be paying me, right? Anyone ever had this thought?"

Here's the (painful) result of my run-in with the paper a while back.

Never underestimate the power of the press. And recycle frequently, or wear shoes indoors.

Posted by: Anna Haynes at September 25, 2005 1:41 AM | Permalink

"Are Times Select subscribers guaranteed the ability to post feedback or commentary on a columnist's work?"

Subscribers can comment, at least on some of the columns, with restrictions (you have to sign your real name, and you have to be polite).

"There is other good stuff out there, mainly bloggers who know more about their subject (expertise) than any NYT editorialist."

Krugman helped win the ss debate, he's a Princeton economist and knows as much as anyone about his field. Brad DeLong is a liberal economist, but he doesn't have the platform that Krugman has. You can't best Dowd at what she does. Kristof was bureau chief all over the far east, he has so many contacts ... Anyway I don't see how you can compare a blog with a column, one is fast food, the other slow food, for the most part.

" would you trust the opinion of any of these people regarding anything you'd put your wallet up against?"

See Krugman above. Also, Kristof made a big difference for several Pakistani women of late. These writers aren't just opinion and anaylsis. They are also advocates.

"paper expects readers to pay for the privilege of viewing videos introducing the columnists"

The paper doesn't expect anything. You can view the videos or not, your choice. I have enjoyed them thus far.

"But only Times Select readers can read the link. So I won’t. Nyah nyah.”"

Andrew Sullivan provides a good example of why I would rather read the NYT columnists than most blogs: the columnists are adults who know how to engage in civil discourse.

"“In this world, no one is special, no one is irreplaceable,” says Markos. “In the old world of syndicated columnists, that might bruise some egos.”"

Kos's ego is big enough. He ends his post saying that the NYT acts as if it wants to become obsolete -- "Wish granted," as if he alone decides who is important these days.

My Times Select subscription came free with home delivery, so I was spared any shock the online readers have had. A month or two ago Bill Keller was on Charlie Rose saying that The Times was going to increase investigative reporting, which may improve their news pieces for those who are complaining.

Posted by: ale at September 25, 2005 1:46 AM | Permalink

Scott, I was the one who brought up business expense. I wouldn't call it an argument, though. I'm reasonably sure that research confirms it--or maybe I'm just having grad school flashbacks and it was never anything more than Vin Crosbie's reasonable and thus far entirely accurate criteria.

So since I'm too lazy to spend more time finding out which, consider the intuitively obvious (with cites!). 15% of the print WSJ customers pay the extra bucks to get online access. That 15%, or about 200,000, constitutes half of all subscribers.

So, are the other 200K who only subscribe to news junkies who pay for news online when they could get it from a thousand places free? Or are they previous print subscribers who decided the online version gave them everything they needed for less? If you're not sure, consider that their print subscriptions grew by 47. Not 47%. Just 47.

There's no reason to think that the online subscribers are anything other than print subscribers who don't like to recycle--in other words, the WSJ target market which, in WSJ's own words, is "the nation's top business and political leaders, as well as investors across the country.".

If the majority of WSJ subscriptions aren't written off as a business expense, the Journal itself would be flabbergasted--and worried.

Paid content is growing far more slowly than the optimists hoped. Jupiter Research came out with a report in early 2003 saying that paid content dollars spent had exploded to 1.6 billion, and that 2003 would see 2 billion, but in fact we didn't hit 2 billion until (2004), and much of that was generated by new users, not increased per capita spending.

As for what we spend on: the new entry is personals/dating. But the other top 2 of three have held constant for years: business/financial and entertainment/lifestyle (spelled PORN) (cite).

I don't know what delusion gripped the Times management. But the facts on paid content have been uncompromisingly consistent for years.

Jay, as for the ads: I don't know what the numbers are for the Times, but if they're like the rest of media, your subscription covers the cost of production and delivery--maybe. Most publishers I've read or spoken to say that they'd be happy to give their product away for free, but that advertisers pay more for eyeballs that paid for subscriptions.

Posted by: Cal at September 25, 2005 2:45 AM | Permalink

The economics of publishing looked this way everywhere I worked:

The biggest line it was production. The physical printing of the paper. From the cost of the paper and ink, to the guys who ran the press. And the cost of the press itself.

SEcond was distribution. Paying people to actually get the paper to people.

News was last.

On the revenue side, subscriptions were a pain and added little to the bottom line, but were necessary in term sof ABC reports. The big money is advertising, and advertisers paid for eyeballs.

So I've always wondered why you couldn't build an entirely new model of newspaper without the paper. It would seem doable, Eliminate production and distribution, put it all online. POdcast it too, so people can listen in the car. Or Satellite radio.

Posted by: JennyD at September 25, 2005 4:40 AM | Permalink

My media column about this issue is up:
I'd love any feedback and responses and appreciate all the wise remarks here.

Cal, thanks. I stand corrected.

Posted by: Scott Butki at September 25, 2005 8:01 AM | Permalink

The Business Week article I linked to in my post says:

On the decade-old Web, "free" is the default setting, and it's difficult to make readers reboot. O.K., there's The Wall Street Journal (744,000 online paying customers and counting) and some targeted business sites. There are a few paid non-porn plays, like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Packers Insider. But in August, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution doubled back on a year-old attempt to establish a paid sports Web site. In May, the Los Angeles Times made its entertainment section free again, following a two-year bid to charge $4.95 for monthly access.

It has proven next to impossible to get online users to pay for something that's not hard business data (which promises to make them money or keep them from losing it) or that doesn't play into fanatical tribal identification. While the Times' Maureen Dowd is a darling of her ideological set, political loyalties have not yet translated into the face-painting extremes of sports.

"Brad DeLong is a liberal economist, but he doesn't have the platform that Krugman has." They just changed the platform Krugman has to something less powerful.

"You can't best Dowd at what she does." What is it she does?

"Anyway I don't see how you can compare a blog with a column, one is fast food, the other slow food, for the most part." First, you're not reading the right blogs. Second, you're not thinking about aggregation.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 25, 2005 9:35 AM | Permalink

Times Select has a free two week trial period, which may explain why The Times hasn't announced any numbers. Mickey Kaus might consider investigating what he's writing about.

I've been reading blogs and online news only 6 months, and I admit, the Times bashing is very tiresome. Judith Miller, bad journalism, Judith Miller, Times Select, Judith Miller, bad journalism, Judith Miller. If you don't like it, why are you talking about it all the time?

Posted by: ale at September 25, 2005 9:44 AM | Permalink

Yes, there's a lot of gratuitous and childish Times-bashing online. At PressThink, I haven't written a post about the Times since May (" In Praise of Daniel Okrent.")

You ignored my question, "ale"... what is it that Maureen Dowd does? Too tough for 'ya? I'd really like to know. In her latest we find such unduplicateable, high-valued-added observations as:

Stormy is like his dad, Desert Stormy. They both love wardrobe calls: cool costumes, sports outfits, presidential windbreakers, "Top Gun" get-ups, weather gear.

But leadership is not a series of costume changes. The former Andover cheerleader has been too reliant on photo-ops, drop-bys and "Mission Accomplished" strut-bys, rather than a font of personal knowledge.

What Katrina exposed was a president who - remarkable as this may sound - seemed bored after his re-election, just as Bill Clinton had drifted after his re-election. Before the Monica scandal broke, Mr. Clinton's aides had to beg him to call lawmakers on the Hill to support his own legislative agenda.

Before the Katrina scandal, W. had lethargically wandered the country, lifelessly promoting his Social Security plan and an energy bill that did nothing to solve the energy crisis, and endlessly vacationing in Crawford.

He campaigned as a strong daddy who would keep us safe, but then seemed lost when his daddy figure, Dick Cheney, kept vacationing as Katrina exposed a grotesque rescue apartheid in New Orleans.

What is that? It that political analysis? Cultural synthesis? The application of expertise? Competition for Jon Stewart? The mobilization of outrage? Social criticism? The only theme or point-of-view I have been able to deduce from Dowd is: "politicians--all of them--are full of shit, I'm not."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 25, 2005 11:13 AM | Permalink

From the comments section of that Business Week article that Jay links to:

"In fact, since I have issues about being left on the outside looking in, I might have to cancel my subscription."

That's the comment that should give any newspaper exec anywhere, who is trying to figure out how to make online pay, an ulcer.

I sympathize with these guys. They're wrestling with a bear, and I think Nisenholtz just made the unfortunate mistake of pulling on the bear's tail.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at September 25, 2005 11:21 AM | Permalink

One thing the Times bashers shouldn't forget is that the Times competed in the most competitive newspaper market in the country and not only prevailed but became one of the best newspapers in the world. That was a remarkable achievement. Maybe the Times has lost its touch, but I wouldn't count it out too fast.

Jenny D gets to the heart of the matter: Can a newspaper make it exclusively online? I think it's possible, at least at the national level, but I'm very skeptical about the local and regional level.

Look back 100 or 150 years ago, which wasn't so different from today. Every town had multiple papers selling for prices that were barely above free. Costs of production were, by historical standards, negligible. You could pick a paper that matched your ideological and reading preferences. Or you could read several, as many people did.

Over time, the market shook out so that all but a handful of cities had just one highly profitable daily. Why? Advertisers gravitated toward the largest paper, which could therefore increase revenues without substantially increasing costs and squeeze out competitors. As that happened, the dominant papers changed into the nonpartisan, fiscally conservative, professional, comprehensive and bland products we know so well.

The Internet has returned us to, approximately, 1830. I'm guessing that the same things that worked for the papers that survived then will work in news now:

1. Fast, comprehensive and intensely local coverage.

2. Overt political grandstanding (See Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst).

3. Predominance of fact over opinion.

4. Sensationalism.

And I'm guessing that the same shakeout will occur. We'll have a dominant national paper (or website) or two, a lot of fringe operations and not much in between.

The Times, with its sober, international focus, always has taken a different path. I don't know whether that will continue to work, but I would rate its chances better than those of at least 8 of the other top 10 papers in the country, plus all the TV networks and magazines.

In 20 years, I'm guessing, the Times will still be kicking Instapundit's butt.

Posted by: David Crisp at September 25, 2005 12:00 PM | Permalink

The Times may well be "kicking Instapundit's butt" in 20 years -- to use David Crisp's memorable phrase -- but if it does so, it will be as a website, not a print product.
There's a lot of evidence piling up that people prefer reading newspapers online ... whereas, for the moment, at least, they prefer reading magazines in print.
As an old codger parked improbably on a campus for the past couple of years, what I've consistently observed is that anyone under 30 gets his or her daily news online. Yet their backpacks are stuffed with Time, Newsweek, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Wired, et. al.
All these magazines have websites, some of them with original daily material that never sees print. Yet their print products continue to thrive.
It's a trick that most newspapers have been unable to duplicate.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at September 25, 2005 12:39 PM | Permalink

David, I would say the Times COULD be kicking Instapundit's butt. But there's a chance that the Times as we know it might wither, or morph into something better, different, who knows.

Jay, I'm with you on Dowd. Pointless. I stopped reading her a year or two ago. Actually, I went through the paper, and nothing on the op-ed page interested me except The Public Editor column. And that's free online, I think.

Posted by: JennyD at September 25, 2005 12:40 PM | Permalink

Hmmm... This post is (temporarily) number one on Daypop's Top 40, a "list of links that are currently popular with webloggers from around the world."

Slow news day?

Jenny: Here's the ever cogent Maureen Dowd on "Meet the Press" today, getting asked a concrete question. She's not even close to having an answer, and cannot seem to form a coherent thought:

Mr. Russert: Maureen Dowd, be counterintuitive here. Karl Rove calls you up and said, "Maureen, I've been reading your column for the last couple years. Give us advice. What should we do in the second term?"

Ms. Dowd: Well, I think, you know, given what David said, people have talked about whether the Bushes are racist, and I don't think they're racist, but their problem is about class, because they never have understood that when they have this story arc where they go down to Texas and pull themselves up by their bootstraps, that that is--they think that's a true pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. They didn't accept the fact that they always have Daddy's friends to help them. And until they can see reality, then--you know, Bush's--say he's a good third- or fourth-quarter player, after Katrina. Well, that's not good enough for people who don't have Daddy's friends to help. And until he accepts that about himself, you know, he can't move on, I don't think. (Transcript.)

Scary thing is: she thinks that's a class analysis. What should the Bush Administration do in its second term? Get the president to admit that neither he nor his father pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 25, 2005 1:24 PM | Permalink

Bad move by the Times. They are going to decrease their readership far more than raise any revenues.

It's arrogant for them to think their columnists are worth a premium when there is so much great content and opinion for free on the web.

Posted by: W.C. Varones at September 25, 2005 1:53 PM | Permalink

Jay, I am sorry to do this here, but now I have to rant:

How on earth would having George Bush blather about his lack of pulling on bootstraps do any good for the nation? Dowd is such a dope, and caught up in her own story arc about herself as perceiving the story arcs of others...and then trashing them I guess. She's like a snake who's started to eat her own tail, her worldview is getting smaller, and tighter, and smaller.

As though a story arc is more important than the systemic problems of healthcare, or education, or terrorism, or the nation's perception of the power and responsibility of government versus the individual.

You mean that this woman doesn't have a single concrete idea about what the president could do to help the nation? And she is a national columnnist, at the big newspaper?

Oh, I have to stop before I say something not fit for primetime.

Except...what makes me laugh is that someone at the Times thinks I would pay to read her stuff online.

You know, to apply economics, there is an oversupply of opinion, and the price drops. So does demand. You can get opinion everywhere. And thus Dowd's looks even less valuable than it did.

There is also an oversupply of news, but since that differs so little regardless of the source it's a commodity.

I am glad I'm not in the news business at the moment. This looks difficult. What can news producers do to remain valuable? (I've already given up on opinion.)

Posted by: JennyD at September 25, 2005 3:32 PM | Permalink

The most frequent feeling I have for Dowd is contempt, but I feel compelled to defend her in this case. From the neo-liberal/neo-con perspective, Bush's fantasy that being born on third base means he hit a triple and is a self-made man DOES address class issues.

The neo-lib/con response to class division is to claim that character will out and success is proof of virtue. If Bush is rich then he's a good man. If other people are poor, it's their own damn fault. Dowd, in her incoherent stuttering way, is pointing to this right wing fantasy that virtue accounts for class. Dubya imagines his youthful failures in the oil business redeemed by Saudi investors buying influence with his father prove that he earned what he has and made good on his own! If these poor people in New Orleans didn't have the mettle to have THEIR bankrupted companies purchased by Saudi investors desirous of buying influence with THEIR fathers, than they just don't have the character and personal discipline that would make them worthy of personal wealth.

This speaks directly to the Republican party's position that the very mention of class is "class warfare", unless it is an excuse to let no-bid contracts to connected Republican firms. The erasure of class by fantasies of character and morality is the dominant way the point is avoided in American public discourse.

Dowd's mumbling dosn't rise to the level of policy advice, but it does address a rhetorical strategy that enables George W. Bush, head robber baron, to get away with "values talk" and protestations of "religious faith" and good intentionis as if that puts to rest issues of class. From this perspective, as long as he didn't have the intention to sin in his heart, than he can't be held responsible for actual policies that screw the poor, because redemption and character trump policy and real world consequences. To discuss real world consequences is a sign of unchristian derangement and refusal to live in the dominant fantasy world.

The MSM consensus that Robert's reactionary legal agenda can't be opposed "because he's a good man" more or less follows the same anti-political politics of personality. Roberts' personal amiability means his reactionary politics are somehow unopposable. Contemporary American politics have virtually been replaced by personal story arcs.

Dowd doesn't have much going for her in general, but in this case, to the degree that what she said is intelligible at all, I'm afraid she's on the right track. Bush's rhetoric of faith-based charity mumbles the same personalized language Dowd mumbles here.

For Bush, pretense to religious virtue and crony contracts are a plan to "help the poor in New Orleans." The only help the poor get in that transaction is the rhetoric of moral concern in Bush's personal story arc. Dowd is on the right tack here.

Posted by: Mark Anderson at September 25, 2005 5:05 PM | Permalink

Sorry, that was "on the right track here."

Posted by: Mark Anderson at September 25, 2005 5:06 PM | Permalink

Jeez, asking the NYTimes stable of one trick ponies (Dowd, Krugman, Friedman, Herbert, etc.) to explain GWB, conservatism and religion is like asking a pig to explain Descartes.

Posted by: kilgore trout at September 25, 2005 6:03 PM | Permalink

Mark: If our columnists have any duty at all, it's to know what they think. Still, I would respect an answer like, "I'd tell Karl I have no idea what the White House agenda should be, and it's not my job to know." Does Dowd say this? No. Instead she ventures a thought. But she is unable to form a thought-- and it wasn't exactly a curveball thrown at her.

Q: So what should the people in charge of the White House do in their second term?

A: Did you know George Bush was born with a silver foot in his mouth?

This being inarticulate in the extreme about the very thing political columnists are supposed to be extremely articulate about... a little strange, no? How compatible is it with $49.95? What relevance does it have to your feeling "compelled to defend her in this case?"

Notice that, like Scott McClellan, going inarticulate allows her to avoid any real answer to the original Q: "Maureen, what do you think the Republicans should do?" Lay out your thinking for us. Show some judgment, some elegance of mind, some wit. You are an opinion columnist, venture an opinion! Earn your title!

But she couldn't (on television!) earn it because she doesn't have any clear and decent answers, which Russert had, I think, sensed. So she answered another, more pleasing question: Maureen, what's your favorite hypocrisy riff about Bush? Would you do it for us? To that one she had her smirking answer.

Mark: She's against hyprocrisy, Mo is. And earth tones in men's clothes. She's against those. Who cares if she's on the right side of Marcuse? She's a surface reader who got too close, and stuck herself to the surface.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 25, 2005 6:15 PM | Permalink

"The neo-lib/con response to class division is to claim that character will out and success is proof of virtue. If Bush is rich then he's a good man. If other people are poor, it's their own damn fault."

I'm curious - is it your theory that anyone actually believes and advocates this, or perhaps that they believe it deep down and are just unwilling to admit it to themselves or in public, or are you just working the refs and know yourself that this characterization is not accurate?

If the first, you will struggle to defeat a foe you do not understand.

The second, you may have a point, although underestimating one's foes is also problematic, so perhaps best to err on the generous side.

The third, all's fair in love and war, just take care not to be fooled by your own propaganga.

Posted by: Bezuhov at September 25, 2005 6:25 PM | Permalink

It says something about the times we're in when a New York Times opinion writer gets dissected here over something she said, not something she wrote. Here's one thing that can safely be said about the new age of journalism: Bigtime pundits will have to look and talk the part, not just write it. What do you suppose Mencken would have been like on "Hannity and Colmes"?

But I disagree with Jenny D that there's an oversupply of news. There may be an oversupply of time and space devoted to news, but all indicators I've seen show that the actual number of reporters has stayed flat at best -- and those harried reporters are asked to write multiple stories for multiple media at an ever-faster pace.

AJR's website appears to be down at the moment, but you can check it for figures on what's happened to statehouse coverage in recent years. Local radio, local TV, network news, newspapers -- all in decline (I'm doing this from an aging memory, so somebody correct me if I'm wrong). Cable news producers don't beat the same stories to death all day long just because they think it's good marketing; it's because that's all they've got.

The internet allows us to gather news from a million sources -- all of them relying on the same overstretched pack of reporters. It's too early to say that bloggers won't fill that gap, but my guess is that we'll see the same pattern in blogging that I've seen in newspapers for 25 years: People will write opinions by the ream for free, but you have to pay them to write news.

Posted by: David Crisp at September 25, 2005 6:43 PM | Permalink

You missed my "dissection" of what she wrote? I would think both are fair grounds for commentary. If you cannot succeed on television, if you are not credible on "Meet the Press," then as a columnist you should not go on-- ever. Nor would any wise editor allow it.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 25, 2005 6:57 PM | Permalink

Jay, as to running off the bias brigade: You have a point, as your vision for this comments section and their's seems unbridgeably divergent. One ray of hope.

Though there of course exist in the blogosphere no shortage of conservative (and liberal!) hacks, many who decry liberal media bias in this comments section characterize themselves as former liberals.

These are folks who knew and appreciated the role of the press, and their anger arises from also knowing how much less the media delivers than that press once promised. While the left is acutely attuned to the havoc commercial pressures have wreaked on the press ideal, these commenters who denounce "liberal" media bias are no less sensitive to the twin pressure of the victory of advocacy over the liberal value of disinterested inquiry among the intellectual classes who train new generations of journalists and shape the ideas of our common culture.

Like any ideal, the dedication to following truth, wherever it takes you, can never be fully realized. Biases enter in. But there remain a few brave souls like yourself who are so dedicated. There are many more who scoff at the very possibility, and others who consider it a platitude safely ignored, with the result being that the advocates often enough hold sway, in the academy, and increasingly, in the newsroom.

This site has offered a compelling alternative vision of what the press can be, or more accurately, several visions. I, perhaps too optimistically, hope that the dead horse beaters can be positively engaged in helping some of these visions become reality, given that they happen to share many of the values that you yourself and your liberal colleagues hold dear.

Posted by: Bezuhov at September 25, 2005 6:58 PM | Permalink

Thanks, Bezuhov. That's a synthesis and a half. I promise to think about it.

Of all tongues in which we can "speak" the media, bias is easily the most expressive. It's vernacular.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 25, 2005 7:13 PM | Permalink

" ... many who decry liberal media bias in this comments section characterize themselves as former liberals." -- Bezuhov

Pardon me for injecting a note of skepticism, but my initial reaction to that statement was "a little too many, it seems to me."
My olfactory sensibilities detect an orchestration.
Somehow, we never hear from former conservatives turned liberal. Or even former conservatives now converted to "disinterested inquiry" or to "the dedication to following truth, wherever it takes you."
Odd, isn't it ? Only one-time liberals enjoy a conversion experience.
I don't think so.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at September 25, 2005 9:20 PM | Permalink

Anna, girl, ya gotta warn us when you link to those photos! Yikes!

Posted by: Lisa Williams at September 25, 2005 9:37 PM | Permalink

"My olfactory sensibilities detect an orchestration."

may I suggest that we do an experiment.
Ask Bezuhov and other allegedly liberal-turned-illiberal pseudonymous commenters whether they have any liberal longtime friends who are willing to go on (named) record vouching for the commenters' a) existence, b) non-political employment (i.e. no direct or indirect financial dependence on politicos' largesse), and c) ontogenetic conversion.

If they can't...credibility defenestrated.

Posted by: Anna Haynes at September 25, 2005 9:38 PM | Permalink

Lisa, consider it (link) a graphic illustration of the downside to getting the paper paper.

Posted by: Anna Haynes at September 25, 2005 9:42 PM | Permalink

"Only one-time liberals enjoy a conversion experience. "

actually, there are biological reasons why this might be true. From someone's comment at Kevin Drum's a while back:

"My father-in-law died of Alzheimer's disease several years ago... leading up to the appearance of recognizable physical and mental changes, we noticed several patterns: increasing paranoia and fascination with guns and ammunition... increasing anti-Semitism... increasing fearfulness of those black people... increasing paranoia about the intentions of government; increasing reliance on simple answers to complex questions..."

What if it's true that this explains the differential shift toward conservatism with increasing age?
(my conservative friends would retort "that's absurd" or "that's a hypothetical question" and refuse to consider it...)

Posted by: Anna Haynes at September 25, 2005 10:03 PM | Permalink

"Nor would any wise editor allow it."

I think wise editors let writers make those calls themselves.

Posted by: David Crisp at September 25, 2005 10:34 PM | Permalink

Anna -- With that sort of bigoted and callous perspective, I am surprised that you have any friends, much less conservative ones.

This paranoid belief that ordinary commenters are actually Karl Rove androids programmed to deliver "Republican talking points" is beyond childish. Perhaps even Dowdian.

If you are truly interested in the phenomenon of liberals' conversion to conservative views, check out neo-neocon, especially this thread, as well as this one.

Posted by: Neuro-conservative at September 25, 2005 10:41 PM | Permalink

Steve -- We have seen a tectonic political shift: from a Democratic majority to a Republican one and in changes to public regard for liberal golden cows such as welfare. One must imagine this requires the conversion of a decent number of "liberals" to conservatives or least from liberal to non-liberal. It doens't follow you'd see converse shifts since the above seems to demonstrate liberals are losing members overall, not gaining them. (I guess if we follow Anna's bizarre reasoning, this must be a reflection of an aging of the US population! But then how do we explain the rampant leftism in geriatric Europe?)

I was thinking about Select some more, and Rich, Krugman and Dowd in particular--but I suppose all columnists on some level--work to appeal to the reader's emotions, providing either a kind of release or a kind of stirring up, depending on topic and columnist. This is different than "analysis," which is about providing you critical information to make decisions or to understand a situation. A Rich is trying to activate you or to more intensely activate you. But if you are not already partially "activated" you aren't going to pay to give him a shot at you. I think in the short term the number of people who pay for Select will be a reflection of the market value of the columnists' influence, rather than a limitation of influence. Any true, emotionally "captured" believer is likely to pay.

In the long term, the payment system does not allow the columnists to recruit new followers and convert them into willing donators, so I think over time we'll see their online readership approach something around the number of registred print subscribers, slightly above or below...

Posted by: Lee Kane at September 25, 2005 10:51 PM | Permalink

Is anyone considering the model?

Salon has two options for viewing the content: either you watch a 30 second internet ad before reading anything and tolerate banner ads, or pay a yearly fee. In other words, Salon has commercial breaks.

Why couldn't the NYTimes do the same? I routinely submit to Salon's advertising in order to read their content.

Posted by: Leoniceno at September 25, 2005 11:38 PM | Permalink

"If you don't like it, why are you talking about it all the time?" ale

My apologies, this "you" was the general you, internet, liberal / centrist bloggers and news sites. It was a sloppy sentence.

As to not responding to your questions in my last comments, it was because I didn't see them.

I meant what I said about Ms. Dowd literally, no one is like her, for better or worse. I enjoy some of her pieces.

"First, you're not reading the right blogs." I thought blogs were by definition off the cuff. Obviously, your posts are not, and a few others I've found. Perhaps someone will differentiate "slow blogs" from the faster ones, and I can check out more of those, since I may prefer them.

Krugman's platform was just lowered, but DeLong's was not raised. So far the aggregate of lefty blogs doesn't seem to have the power of The Times or any of the big papers, though they may in the future. My worry is that the federal government is deteriorating quickly and I want replacements soon, and I want the Republican Party's agenda stopped now. The liberal bloggers help with the former issue, but not that much with the latter, am I right?

If we had to fight the social security battle again, without blogs, without the internet, everything else the same, couldn't we do it? I am missing something. Krugman is not going to be in the blogosphere much, but he will be in the news generally. He has been interviewed on Wisconsin Public Radio several times recently, for example, as well as on Air America. He was in a recent issue of Harpers.

The Times columnists are still at Truthout, so they are available online easily, thus far.

All Times columnists are behind the wall, remember, even business, sports, etc. I don't know what kind of pull they create, but there must be some. Joseph Nocera got me (just a little) inside the Business pages -- anything is possible.

I cannot figure out why people like to get their news online. I still like a print paper, and there is so much the online edition doesn't have (and vice versa, of course). Then there's the glare, and the noise, and the immobility . . . .

Posted by: ale at September 25, 2005 11:50 PM | Permalink

Check out this NYTimes piece on AOL's success.

Today, though smaller, America Online is not merely alive but defiantly healthy - especially when it needs to be, having recently taken a terrifying but necessary strategic step: making virtually all of its content available free at, no subscription required.

Posted by: KirkH at September 26, 2005 1:41 AM | Permalink

and I want the Republican Party's agenda stopped now....

I think for stopping the Republican agenda an opposition party capable of winning elections will continue to be your best bet, ale. Liberal blogs will do comparatively little.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 26, 2005 2:59 AM | Permalink

A longstanding critique of the Times is that it conceives of Internet as facilitating its paper product. Indeed, there is very little evidence of the paper's use of Internet modalities in any intrinsic way, and this mugging for dollahs is no exception. So there is no value addition. Might the Times have been better off asking its readers to opine on what the Times has, or could have, that they might actually assent to pay for? Doc seems to think that would be its hard news. Has that market conversation occurred?

Posted by: tom matrullo at September 26, 2005 7:15 AM | Permalink

Great post, Jay. Yours and Searls's got me to wondering what might be some other ways the Times could sweeten the deal to get people to sign up.

Times Select and 'Free Plus'

Posted by: Matthew Sheffield at September 26, 2005 7:17 AM | Permalink

Anna, have you ever heard the following:

"Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains." - Winston Churchill

Posted by: Trained Auditor at September 26, 2005 12:56 PM | Permalink

As an aside, Jay, you may want to file the following for your next reprise of the "De-Certification (a.k.a. self-delegitimization) of the Press" analysis (which are always fascinating):

It was no accident last week that the Los Angeles Times was excluded from a round of interviews granted by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger..."I'm sorry to say it but your paper is so deep in the anti-Arnold tank now I think we are wasting our time dealing with you," Schwarzenegger adviser Mike Murphy told a Times reporter in an e-mail. "Can you blame us? Incessant anti-Arnold slant, an op-ed page that is closed to us, and stories where we don't even get called for comment?" - Howard Kurtz, Media Notes, Washington Post, September 26, 2005.

Posted by: Trained Auditor at September 26, 2005 1:41 PM | Permalink


The version I heard was:

"Any man who is footloose, fancy-free and fearless, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who has a mortgage, orthodontia payments, commuting costs, snow tires, tuition bills looming,and a perpetual stomach ache, and is yet is not running scared, has no brain."

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at September 26, 2005 1:49 PM | Permalink

My original post actually referenced the Churchill quote to note that this phenomenon was different than the one to which I referred, but I guess I placed too much confidence in some of the commenters here. I reseve the right to continue to do so.

What has happened is that the alliance between the left and the liberal that took over American intitutions beginning in the 40's and culminating in the 80's is now breaking up as the left and liberal come to realize the many things they do not have in common. One, specifically, being the relative importance placed upon advocacy and inquiry.

Some liberals have attempted to create a new alliance with conservatives, with mixed success, most markedly in the political arena, less so in other institutions, so far. See the evil neocons for examples of this first one. Others have maintained their allegiance to the old alliance and tried to reform it from within along liberal lines - Kaus being my favorite example here. Finally some liberals have slid leftward to more easily retain the power they achieved via the old alliance, liberal principles be damned.

I have had no conversion experience, I am just as liberal as ever, of the Vaclav Havel school.

Posted by: Bezuhov at September 26, 2005 2:17 PM | Permalink

Original as in original draft, the reference was cut in the Quixotian quest for brevity.

Posted by: Bezuhov at September 26, 2005 2:19 PM | Permalink

What I could never understand about the NYTimes stable of one-trick ponies, is that, once they realized they were going to pay-for-view, why didn't they try to broaden their audience?

From what I understand, when Pinch took over the Times, he made the decision to play to their base, which is the Central Park West crowd and their wannabes. That's fine, because it makes the Times-Democrat a really good local paper. But if they truly hoped to capture a national audience, why wouldn't their columnists tailor their columns, at least part of the time, to a national audience? I realize that the majority of Times readers hate GWB, but that is not the national opinion. If The Faithful require red meat from NYTimes columnists, they should get what they pay for, but would it hurt Friedman to get off his Kyoto/ICC/SUV/globalization hobbyhorse once and just write about what is happening in the Middle East? Would it kill Krugman to give up political punditry (which he does poorly) and just write about economics? Would it hurt Frank Rich to just write about entertainment without having to draw the Vietnam/Watergate/McCarthy Bush/conservative/religious right template every time? Is it possible for Bob Herbert to move beyond the Jesse Jackson School of Black Victimization into something truly progressive for blacks where they can prosper? Who has more "moral authority" to criticize GWB----Dowd, Krugman, Rich or Brooks?

If these one-trick ponies would just write one column per month about what they know---entertainment, foreign affairs, etc. and give the Bush-bashing a rest, they would draw a larger audience for their work.

This seems counter-intuitive to me---why do they do it?

Posted by: kilgore trout at September 26, 2005 3:27 PM | Permalink

I too defend Ms. Dowd for stating the obvious history of the roots of the Bush-disconnect with the reality rest od us live with every day. What should she have said? A laundry list of policies that a Bush would never do or understand? She nailed it. Want specifics adopt the policy of the opposition.

Posted by: Papa at September 26, 2005 3:27 PM | Permalink

Brian this is what I am referring to

Is anyone considering the model?

It is one thing to charge a nominal fee or the equivelent amount in time and another to charge $50 for the right to view an article even once. For some people their time is worth more that money, others will choose to wait through an ad to view content. You do not get the choice for NYTS.

Posted by: Julia Rosen at September 26, 2005 3:49 PM | Permalink

So true, Papa, anyone with "daddy issues" can read Dowd as she tries to work out her issues.

We know that Dowd is not partisan because she wrote the same high school journalism class columns when Bill Clinton was president. But now that GWB is president it's daddy! daddy! daddy! every time Dowd writes. It's kinda voyeuristic. Bleh!

Posted by: kilgore trout at September 26, 2005 4:01 PM | Permalink

You know, Dowd, et. all have a place at the national policy table, by virtue of the fact that they work at a big, important newspaper. A newspaper that is big and important in part because people like me read it, talk about it, etc. Jay said it earlier...they should be paying me to read it, because I am the source of the revenue. My eyeballs that they sell to advertisers.

So how do newspapers round up all the eyeballs to sell to advertisers? Oh, with objective reporting, and incisive commentary.

But what the Times and Times Select seem to miss here is that link. By limiting the eyeballs they are eating into their own base. And by allowing stupid, navel-gazing writing day-after-day (read: Dowd) they start to remind me of long-serving Congressman.

It's not about exposing that Bush was rich. That's no news bulletin. Or that Clinton grew up poor. The "story arc" is a literary device, not a policy tool. I hope that the national media isn't engaged in lit crit, but in something else.

Posted by: JennyD at September 26, 2005 4:02 PM | Permalink

Maybe this is relevant, maybe it isn't, but here it is: I don't read the NYT on a daily basis -- not in print, not online. It's available, but I don't read it as part of my daily routine.

What do I do instead? I have RSS bookmarks and aggregators, most of them pointing to blogs. I scan these and get the news, plus what people are saying about the news. A few times a day I'll check to see what's popping up on my RSS bookmarks for the BBC and CNN.

When do I read NYT columnists? When they say something that shows up in online conversation, or when one shows up in my local print newspaper.

Since I read blogs from both the left and the right, I get a pretty good cross-section of opinion. And if something really interests me, it's not hard to find the original material (and it still isn't difficult, even with Times Select) via links.

So there's an issue for the New Media marketing gurus: I read more than most people, and I don't go directly to the NYT (which I enjoy as a print newspaper) for news and opinion in my daily routine.

Why? Because my self-created, ever-changing media ecosystem has replaced it as an information editor. I enjoy the NYT, but these other sources are just somehow more... practical. Technorati, memeorandum, daypop, blogdex are part of my daily mediascape, because they tell me what's got a hold of people's attention.

You know when people read news and information sources online? Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. -- while they're sitting at their computers during the work day. We're getting our news on the job, in the background, throughout the day, without ever looking at a newspaper or a TV set. That's the new market: Office workers and professionals who obsessively check their RSS feeds while doing their boring jobs, Monday through Friday.

My guess as to why such people read such sources during the business day? Because company policy prohibits them looking at porn. They do THAT on their own time.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at September 26, 2005 4:17 PM | Permalink

I don't normally read NRO, but today, Krugman bugaboo, Donald Luskin crowed that TimesSelect was the triumph of supply side economics---when you put a tax on readership, you get fewer readers.

Posted by: kilgore trout at September 26, 2005 4:46 PM | Permalink

As bad a business decision as this is - and it's a beaut - is the world really that worse off because we won't have opinion columnists to read without a NYTimes subscription? Even that point is moot, given that the columnists will still be available in local newspapers through Times syndication. Or through clever blog usurpation.

JennyD, Jay, Kilgore and others will still be able to grind their teeth in consternation over MoDo, among others. The rest of us will get our fill elsewhere. Blog world is a-clutter with op/ed columnists and and opinionated assholes.

A more significant concern is those 500 folks soon to be laid off at the Times empire - nearly 10 percent in the NYT newsroom. Newspapers are already trying to do more with less and this, I fear, will only exacerbate the freefall of the print side.

Consider this: If anyone depended on the networks and cable news for comprehensive coverage of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the damage done to our country and our neighbors, they sadly received only a lot of splashy graphics and images of rain-soaked TV correspondents pointing at waving palm trees.

Newspapers arguably presented a fuller, more complex view of what the storms did and their lasting effects on the economy and culture of the Gulf Coast and the nation. And they did so with staffs stretched severely thin. If the bean-counters and corporate boards look at the Times as a way to save even more money, severely thin will look good. And the 'product' - the printed news that is fodder for your information and the blogs' chatter will grow thinner and thinner.

You won't have to worry where news content will remain free or fret over paying for Op/Ed pontifications. The news will simply fade away until it's disappears.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at September 26, 2005 5:10 PM | Permalink

No trout it's because she covered daddy Bush so she knows the family dynamics. Most of the folks who voted for them think they're redneck hicks. They're blueblood old money war profiteers and bankers from way back. That's the real joke here.

Posted by: Papa at September 26, 2005 5:30 PM | Permalink

Sorry McLemore, but I haven't read MoDo for years, in fact the only one-trick pony in the Times-Democrat stable I've read recently is Frank Rich, and quit reading him around the time Passion of the Christ appeared, when it became obvious he had no personal knowledge of conservatives or the religious right. Yes, ol' Frank was just ripping pages out of the Times-Democrat Book O' Cliches and Stereotypes----but The Faithful needed reassurance and Frank and his other stablemates gave it to them.

As for Papa's assertion that "Most of the folks who voted for them (Bushes) think they're redneck hicks. They're blueblood old money war profiteers and bankers from way back. Yeah, sure, just like "folks" didn't know that Saint John F. Kennedy was a blueblood old money scion of a boozerunner, war profiteer, and supporter of Hitler. HAHAHAHAHAHAH No wonder the Democrats are the minority party! HAHAHAHAHAHA

It reminds me of a joke that was circulating during the 2004 election. The Democrat's problem is finding people smart enough to know how to vote but dumb enough to vote for Democrats! Hee!Hee! Yeah Papa, we didn't know Bush was a blueblood----thanks for the 411. HAHAHAHAH

Posted by: kilgore trout at September 26, 2005 6:23 PM | Permalink

Julia, is still losing money:

Even using (probably bogus) pro forma numbers they didn't quite break even--not sure NYT wants to ape that business model. I agree the "watch an ad to continue" technique is more accessible than $50/year. Not sure how effective it is though, other than as a less-annoying substitute for pop-ups.

"Salon forecasts that it will report a net loss for its quarter ending September 30, 2005 and cannot accurately predict its results for future quarters."

Translation: they have no idea when they're going to turn a profit. If they do, it will be sheer dumb luck that does the job, not business savvy.

Posted by: Brian at September 26, 2005 6:33 PM | Permalink

I threw in the "among others" for you, Kilgore.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at September 26, 2005 6:48 PM | Permalink

Grinding my teeth?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 26, 2005 7:12 PM | Permalink

Daniel Conover hits on something I've been wondering about: How much would be newspapers be hurting if you could sneak a peek at a newspaper while on the job as inconspiculously as you can a website? The new media: just another way to goof off.

Posted by: David Crisp at September 26, 2005 9:34 PM | Permalink

I completely agree with you that Dowd's nonperformance confirms the general sense that her high profile is more of an embarassment than anything else. She doesn't have the chops to connect personal snark to a big picture. All she has is snark. And not even particularly biting or amusing snark at that.

I fortunately didn't witness the Dowd disaster you describe from Russert's show live. I'm sure I would have been just as appalled as you were if I saw her freeze and mumble with my own eyes and ears.

Given that she is the definition of annoying even when she has time to write what she will, I didn't read her often when she was free--so I surely won't be reading her behind a pay-wall.

She is one of those figures where the worst thing she could do is agree with you, because she will make a hash of it and discredit anything she associates herself with. What can you say? If she were a boxer, her manager should have thrown in the towel years ago. Why doesn't she have a manager?

Upon reflection my comment was probably more a defense of what she could have meant--a kind of thought experiment, what might have happened on a planet where Maureen Dowd had a thought in her head that transcended snark. Sorry to use up bandwidth only to share the unmotivated fantasy of an alien, articulate Maureen Dowd with you.

I suppose I'd like to share some of the blame with the catastrophe that passes for public policy debate in this country. When "debate" is routinely conducted between non-talking heads and takes its point of departure from the common Washington surreality of the day, the effect this often has on me is temporary insanity. Sorry to act out in your comment section like that.

By the way, I never got even a pro forma response from Democracy Now on the recruiting story. I'm pretty disappointed.

Posted by: Mark Anderson at September 26, 2005 10:41 PM | Permalink


The humaneness of your comment is much appreciated. Jay is certainly not alone in his exasperation with the culture war, which continues to wreak more havoc upon our common culture than upon either of the two putative combatants. Until we work together on rebuilding the trust upon which any culture relies, the war itself is a waste of time. Mark's humane post is an example of a more fruitful approach.

It seems clear to me that culture war distrust between the insular (a clear flaw among equally clear merits) Republican feds and compassionately corrupt state and local govs lies at the heart of the Katrina relief delays.

Steve made an interesing point about financial pressures leading news organizations to hire less experienced reporters. Such reporters would be seen by culture warriors of all stripes as more easily manipulated, encouraging the ceaseless "working of the refs" that we see instead of fair play.

Posted by: Bezuhov at September 27, 2005 12:10 AM | Permalink

For what it's worth, I talked to a college class today and asked where they had gotten their daily news. About a third had read the local paper online or one of the web news sites. Nobody had read a hard copy newspaper, and nobody had read a blog.

That response was somewhat higher than usual for online news, but typical for hard copies and blogs.

Posted by: David Crisp at September 27, 2005 1:18 AM | Permalink

I guess the best feedback I can provide on TimesSelect is that it has no effect on me. What NYT puts behind its pay-wall is dead to me. I have no need for it.

That can be a mechanism of the (lack of quality) of what NYT puts there or the abundance of available information of equal or better quality.

Mark, I did finally track down the recruiting story and posted on it: Plus ça change...

I agree that the non-response is disappointing in the new noetic field that values conversation. That's the other failure of the NYT pay-wall, they're taking themselves out of the public conversation.

Posted by: Sisyphus at September 27, 2005 2:32 AM | Permalink

I am not a Journalist. My spelling is often mostly artistic rather than accurate. Yet, from my distant observation post, there seems to be a serious malaise in the professional news wordsmithing business.

That, obvious to me, illness is simply the inability of the Editor to properly identify the real story.

I suspect the editor sends the reporter out to cover a specific news story. Any fool can see that a national disaster that takes human lives and the love life of Michael Jackson are major stories.

What has happened to the brilliant Editors?
The informed Editor who sends his best investigative writer to get all the drama and stealth that is preventing Whistle-Blower Protection legislation from being enacted in Canada, in the United States and at the United Nations, all currently, all at this very time?

Why is it that you are not aware that whistle-Blower Protection will do more to save us from losses of billions of national revenue dollars, in Canada and the USA and would have stemmed huge misappropriations of funds in scandals like [?Able Danger?], Canada's Sponsoship or Adscam, [Billions], and the United Nations Oil For Food scandals.

There are honest people everywhere, but they can not act on our behalf because almost no one can afford to lose their job or be wrongly crushed in the courts when no WB Protection is in place.

This law works no matter what party happens to hold power and it reaches into every corner of the country.

There was a recent case in Nova Scotia where funds were diverted that would have paid the wages of 133 child protection workers. The same 133 child workers an investigation revealed that the children's ministry was short staffed by. What a tragic disgrace.

Get a short glimpse of this at:

Digest and muse about this overlooked story, and try to think of any more worthwhile cause likely to provide as much benefit to all the citizens of the United States and Canada both. 73s TonyGuitar

PS There is a secondary, but huge story in Canada where our corrupt Liberal Government is quietly destroying our freedom of information act. The government has imposed LIFE TERM sworn oaths of secrecy in 16, now 14 ministry departments silencing over 6,000 bureaucrats under threat of very severe penalties.
The Canadian Newspaper Association, [the only interviener], has been screaming loudly about this, but seemingly only upon your deaf ears.

Since the MSM in Canada are beholding to their major advertiser, the Liberal Party, there is nary a mention of all this to the Canadian people.
Seems to me as though it would be in your interest and ours in Canada, if you would revert to being a good neighbour, forget about Chretien not joining in with George Bush in Iraq, and inform Canadians of what is happening in their own country. eh? TonyGuitar

Posted by: TonyGuitar at September 27, 2005 4:54 AM | Permalink

I have one last thought about Dowd, bias, the press, and story arcs substituting for nutritious, journalistic content:

Dowd loves a good story arc. It seems more important to her than rethinking public policy, turning up underreported stories, you name it.

Turns out that the press and its reporters are being Dowd-ed. The story arc is more important than the facts.

Here's a story arc:

There is a big hurricane. The rich people get away. The poor people don't. The poor people huddle in a big sports arena. Reporters stand mostly outside, but some go in. They see crowds of people. They see lots of dirt. They see poverty close up and personal.

Then they start hearing stories from people wandering in and out of the arena that there's violence. Armed gangs roaming at night, raping small children and murdering at will. Bodies are piled up in freezers. It's like a war zone, a lawless place where women and children are terrified.

Of course, that goes nicely with the story arc that the middle/upper-middle class reporters understand. Poor people, crammed together in a sports arena, will rape, murder, and plunder. Perfect.

Oh, and add this. The poor people are mostly black. You can play the race card too. Now everyone will believe this story arc.

Is it true? Sure it's true. It's true for three weeks. Because that's the story for three weeks.

Now it's not true. There's a better story.

It doesn't give me a lot of faith in the press. I think bias paraded through the Katrina mess in full-force. It was class bias, in the form of middle-class and affluent reporters believing that poor, minority people would behave like animals. It was political bias, in that people blamed others based on their ideology and party affiliation. But it also showed how racially segregated New Orleans is. The poor are predominantly black. That much is true.

Posted by: JennyD at September 27, 2005 10:17 AM | Permalink

Being American in T.O.

Comments: Freakonomics
In the meantime you may want to rethink all those stories of mahem, rape and murder and the piling of bodies by the door that supposdly took place in the huge Katrina Storm shelter.

You may be inclined to re-edit all those mental pictures made when you read about what two LA Times professionals find upon investigating their own Media navel. Link.

If the link fails you, This was pointed to me by a commentor on Pressthink this morning, early. Easy to scroll and find.[Just Above]

Those comments are really worth a scroll too!
Editors today get the obvious story..Rita and Michael Jackson, but has good investigative journalism Died?

The Whistle Blower Protection law that is so quietly and stealthily being bucked by the governments of Canada, the USA and in the United Nations, all current, all on-going as we speak. As my daughter would say....*Duh?*. 73s TG

Posted by: TonyGuitar at September 27, 2005 12:38 PM | Permalink

Maybe the rationale for the paywall is more than just an attempt to increase the paltry revenue that the online edition generates.

Maybe it's also an attempt to drive people to the print product, which costs a lot more than $50 a year, but doesn't seem like it because you only shell out $1 at a time.

"Oops, can't read Dowd/Brooks/Krugman online at the office anymore. Damn, I guess I'll just have to buy the paper on the way to the subway."

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at September 27, 2005 12:50 PM | Permalink

Re: the LA Times getting around to rumor control. The press is supposed to deal in verified and verifiable information. It didn't do a very credible job in passing along reports that weren't well verified at the time, and proved unverifiable later.

But you're on to something about Dowd with your story arcs, Jenny. I asked several times in this thread: what is it she does? It pays to recall that Dowd is the first "post-ideological" political columnist at the New York Times. She writes from Washington, but she is not known for her attachment to any policy community, governing philosophy, or wing of party. In the way that David Brooks stands for moderate Northeast Republicanism (even though he can't be reduced to that) and Bob Herbert for NAACP-style urban liberalism (even though he would resist such a label) we all know Maureen Dowd stands for...

Her own clevernesss? She wants us to know that, if she is a Democrat--seems likely--she's gonna be a disployal one in her column because...whew...she can really make fun of fumblin' Al Gore, and he sooooo deserves it! Thus her opinions amount to a series of sketches with the same payoff: the reader gets to say of "politicians," don't they know how ridiculous they sound?

The other thing she does is try out the quick-fitting story line. In fact, that's what a Mo column essentially is: story arc try out time. The prose alternates between her re-telling of things in the news, and her attempt to create a tidier-than-truth story line that unites those things. She's not a political columnist at all, in my view. She tidies up politics by reducing it to style. Dowd on political leadership...

Stormy is like his dad, Desert Stormy. They both love wardrobe calls: cool costumes, sports outfits, presidential windbreakers, "Top Gun" get-ups, weather gear. But leadership is not a seies of costume changes...

That is characteristic. Her column is a series of premature, overdrawn, or simplistic observations that, dressed up in the language of style, are supposed to sound witty but also urban cynical. The sensibility is Beltway-weary, media weary, image and posturing weary. Windbreakers.. gimme a break, Prez!

But crap detection as world view leads to some terrible self-delusions. Russert asked her a gotcha question, and they came out.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 27, 2005 12:55 PM | Permalink

Mark Anderson: Your reflections are appreciated.

Q. Is it possible to pinpoint more exactly where the bit of culture war slippage came in?

In tech blogging Iit's called "getting granular." If you'll indulge me for a moment in the microscopic... You said in the first note you felt compelled to defend Dowd. From your second note it appears that you didn't feel that way at all. Hypothesis: Instead of looking at what she actually said in the "Meet the Press" situation and making a judgment about that (as you did in your second note), the Anderson of the first note looked over at who was attacking her in the "interpretation after" (comment thread) situation.

There, judgment is affected by larger loyalties; the mind moves away from what originally happened to what will continue to happen if a distorted discussion goes on; and there's a desire to thwart unfair victories by attackers X, Y and Z, who have spoken already.

Preventing that future event becomes the unconscious strategic priority, compared to which the originating facts have tactical meaning only. If it's good tactics to agree with Dowd based on who's attacking her and what they may get away with if unchallenged, then it's defend Dowd, of course. This is culture war logic getting its boots on and going to work. But it all happens in a moment, which becomes naturalized.

Thus aroused, a true culture warrior would then return to the original incident and pound it into the shape needed for the task at hand, cutting away anything inconvenient, and in extreme cases forgetting that this pounding and cutting ever took place. This clears the way for division of the world into (our) Truth Squads against (their) Fleet of Liars. The division is made and the war goes on.

The key moment is that little displacement from the immediate past (and what actually happened) to the immediate future (what's being said unfairly about it.)


Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 27, 2005 1:37 PM | Permalink

"But crap detection as world view leads to some terrible self-delusions."

"That's the sound of finding out."

"The News From Iraq is Not Too Negative. But it is Too Narrow."

Rosen insights; none better. To whom it may concern, this is what original thought sounds like, hope it's contagious. Jay, I know its tough, but I hope you never give up.

Risking an actual on-topic thought for a change, there is the possibility that Times-Select is a brilliant move. You won't find many of the products and services advertised in the Times in your local Wal-Mart. Price is not the selling-point, status is, and status goods have the odd property of negative price elasticity - i.e. demand rises as price rises. This of course has its limit, but $50 per year is more likely to be too low to indicate the desired status than too high to be affordable for Times readers, and more importantly potential future Times readers.

Posted by: Bezuhov at September 27, 2005 1:46 PM | Permalink

This discussion has me thinking about what I would pay for in the NYTimes. The Times is a reliable liberal (or "urban" as Pinch says) paper which reflects the views of it's readership. So much of the Times is shot through with liberal cant (movie review, gardening for chrissakes!) that it has nothing to say to me---except foreign coverage. I don't know if the foreign correspondents will be among the 500 cut, but the Times-Democrat is one of the few news outlets with foreign bureaus. Foreign news is one of the glaring deficiencies in our US news. I certainly understand the economic problems with funding foreign bureaus, but this is a major failing with our national press.

Which is to say, I might consider paying for John Burns' reports.

Posted by: kilgore trou at September 27, 2005 2:11 PM | Permalink

That's a good point about foreign coverage. Obviously a Unique Selling Proposition. Reports on foreign markets and conditions affecting them are one of those news categories where paid services have always thrived.

And I agree with you about Burns. I wrote about him in May 2004 in "The View From Iraq is Getting Narrower Just as Things Are Getting Worse..."

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 27, 2005 2:28 PM | Permalink

As I mentioned earlier, I don't read the NYT with enough regularity to say much about it with great confidence, but this morning I made a point of driving down to the local Starbucks and buying a copy.

This is what I can report: As guy who still loves print-edition newspapers, I love sitting down to read this this one. I accept that this kind of non-critical, doe-eyed newsgeek adoration automatically classifies me as a dork or worse, but I also think that we (and I include myself in that "we") tend to get so caught up in specific critiques that we can lose sight of the larger picture.

I still think Times Select is a mistake, but I'm not anywhere close to writing off the NYT as a viable product, brand or institution. I'm sure there are all sorts of arrogant snobs who work there and I wish they'd get smarter about blogs and if I were running the show I'd probably fire Judith Miller, but whatever. A newspaper is more than my personal laundry list of peeves and preferences.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at September 27, 2005 3:38 PM | Permalink

So much of the Times is shot through with liberal cant (movie review, gardening for chrissakes!) --kilgore

Hey, watch it there, Buster. Tony Scott and Mahnola Dargis are two of the few Times writers I would pay for. (John Burns, too.)
But I gotta admit, I didn't know liberal cant had infected the gardening colum. In fact, I don't even know what the liberal take on urban gardening is.
Don't ?
Do ?
Do, but ... ?

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at September 27, 2005 4:04 PM | Permalink

I can't prove it now Lovelady, because the article is behind the firewall, but a while back, there was a major story about the lack of diversity in----horticulture. Oh, sure, inquiring liberal minds want to know about this gross injustice, but a paper that devotes precious inches to this topic obviously has too much time and money on it's hands. But that's just my view----liberals may disagree.

Posted by: kilgore trout at September 27, 2005 4:29 PM | Permalink

Great post...has anyone started a pool yet on when TimesSelect will be de-selected? Six months, eight months, a year?

Posted by: Michael Parekh at September 27, 2005 7:56 PM | Permalink

"... the mind moves away from what originally happened to what will continue to happen if a distorted discussion goes on ... This is culture war logic getting its boots on and going to work..."

wow. that was good.

And the workaround is? If the more pacifist faction decides to "be the change that they wish to see in the world", and resigns from the culture war, that's unilateral disarmament, and the world is not better off (except insofar as strife is reduced when the winners' dominance is no longer challenged).

Is the workaround to engage in meta-commentary whenever you see it happening, to point out that it _is_ happening, and thereby defuse its effectiveness? Does this actually work?
Or is your job (Jay) just to observe and report the phenomenon, not to do anything about it?

"With that sort of bigoted and callous perspective, I am surprised that you have any friends, much less conservative ones."

Neuroconservative, sometimes it surprises me too. Only reason I can think of is that they're more bigoted and callous than me. :-)
Recommended: Paul Graham's What You Can't Say

Posted by: Anna Haynes at September 27, 2005 9:03 PM | Permalink

Aw, c'mon. Now even "rotate your crops" is being assigned political meaning ?
I've heard that advice since I was a 12-year-old (which, dear God, was in 1955.)
I had thought better of you.
Is there nothing that the right wing cannot politicize ?
So my Mama's warning -- "Eat your vegetables or you don't get dessert" -- was actually an insidious left-wing plot ?
(Actually, I suppose the massively-subsidized sugar industry would consider it so.)
One more reason for Press Think contributors to reveal their allegiances, alliances, obligations and connections.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at September 27, 2005 9:05 PM | Permalink

"observe and report the phenomenon, not to do anything about it"

"do anything about" = "formulate ways to neutralize"

Posted by: Anna Haynes at September 27, 2005 9:06 PM | Permalink

Daniel Conover connects again with his comments on how great it is just to read a newspaper. Dang it, I miss newspapers already, and they aren't even gone yet.

Posted by: David Crisp at September 27, 2005 10:19 PM | Permalink

I wrote up a response to your culture wars reading of my Maureen Dowd comments. They got a little long for a comment so I posted them on my blog.

Maureen Dowd as Rorschach Test

Posted by: Mark Anderson at September 28, 2005 12:47 AM | Permalink

Thanks, Anna: I don't have any hope of affecting the culture war. Nor do I think I can "do" anything about it when it shows up, except notice, illustrate, criticize, satirize, warn, and so on. Neutralize? Nah, no hope of that either. I'd settle for describing some of its turns and tricks. Frankly I try to explain things to my own satisfaction; if I can do that, I figure readers will be interested.

It's so rooted in long and tangled histories that we're still living; there are too many rewards to the warriors, too many who want the condition to spread. It also employs people (David Horowitz, David Brock) and influences elections. But the culture war isn't imported; it's home grown. It's "in" American culture now, in us: in me, even you.

The argument I would make to participants caught up in it is not "disarm, liberals" or "stop, conservatives, your hurting America." More like... you're distorting yourself, and it follows a pattern, are you interested in that? Or: "the bias discourse is making you dumber; as an educator it is my duty to inform you."

The war miseducates its converts. I think it's sad, for example, that the culture war taught conservatives that the media with its biases "lost" Vietnam, or made it impossible for the U.S. to win after Tet, when in the service academies and the Pentagon, the people who have the biggest stake in the question have been moving away from that view for a long time.

Mark: I didn't see you as attacking me, but there were others in the thread attacking Dowd. Anyway, thanks for your corrections and further comments.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 28, 2005 1:42 AM | Permalink

OK Lovelady, you win the Out Of Control Hyperbole Award for this thread. Mama? Vegetables? Left-Wing Plot? All in response to an article you didn't even read? Impressive!

Posted by: kilgore trout at September 28, 2005 2:22 PM | Permalink

Are you hoping for second place, Kilgore? You're definitely in the running.

Posted by: Dave McLemore at September 28, 2005 2:45 PM | Permalink

So true, McLemore, and it really PO's me that Lovelady is giving me a run for my money!

Posted by: kilgore trout at September 28, 2005 3:09 PM | Permalink

Hmmm... a garden plot? Vegetables = mind control, perhaps?

Posted by: Daniel Conover at September 28, 2005 5:34 PM | Permalink

Wednesday I met Martin Nisenholtz, CEO of New York Times Digital, and sat next to him at a roundtable discussion. He said he liked this post and was sending it around to colleagues at the Times Company. He gave an upbeat report (no figures, no specifics) on the numbers TimesSelect was generating.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at September 29, 2005 12:43 AM | Permalink

From the Intro