Thursday, June 05, 2008

I don't mind paying for my news

I took a journalism course back around 1970. I don't recall what text we used but the prof did most of his teaching around our mandatory subscription to the LA Times. Nobody, not even the editor, agrees with every word printed in a serious news paper but a proper and progressive attitude for being an informed citizen demands that spectrum of coverage. To be so informed I consider as much an obligation of citizen-powered nations [we abuse the word "democracy"] as voting or willingness to pay taxes and serve in defense forces.
So, I am sad when an important news organization crosses a threshold of demise and heads towards the trash heap of trivialized "major media" mush.
I don't think there is any way to be a serious newspaper for a publisher who won't provide enough budget to send adept and knowledgeable sleuths among our businesses, politicians and other influencers of world events and enough freedom to write the complete and cogent exposition and analysis of what those sleuths find, regardless of the wishes of the subjects and sponsors [too often the same party] to spin news favorably. Those are two things that get me to pay any attention to a paper. Those are things I will pay for in cash because they ARE value to me and only such coverage actually satisfies my hunger to be realistically informed of the state of the world and our prospects in it.

NY Times recently polled on line readers to get a profile of the readers and their responses to various features of the Times' product. I had to add a comment that I was willing to pay for sound reporting since they took their premium content out from behind the pay wall. If you, as a consumer of news, insist on getting something for nothing, you deserve the pablum press and trite talking heads that are displacing real news sources. How long will you be able to change the channel to PBS and NPR?

I doubt they are listening to me but if Mr. Zell or the Board of Directors at NY Times, [you go to hell, Rupert, you are just a pusher] have any interest in keeping ME as a customer they had better not water down their news any further nor pander to politically powerful. Yes, the Wal-Marts of the world make money...but not from me. I would caution publishers strongly against the urge to become a Wal-Mart of news with an abundance of formulaic fluff you can print at a profit. Wal-Mart shoppers wind up with few choices. Josh Marshall's Talking Point Memo, for example, sometimes quotes mainstream media outlets but they have been freer than the mighty NY Times to dig and to disclose the dreck that Washington does and disguises who is my first read in the morning? Who's ads do I see first? Its getting to be a toss-up.

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