I’ve long had a love/hate relationship with the New York Times. My father used to have a subscription at his office, and he would especially bring home a copy every day for me, even picking up the vaunted Sunday edition of ‘the Times’ and lugging it back home for me. I loved the feel of the paper, how its global scope differed so markedly from the local paper I grew up with, the Jackson Citizen Patriot, a right wing local daily that was about as exciting as watching paint dry.
When I was in college, the Times cleverly put out free copies so as to get us reading it, to get the young ‘uns reading it early. The closest parallel that I can think of is a dealer giving his clients free samples of drugs, just to get them hooked. Call it shameless self promotion, call it marketing, but it worked. It was also there that I started to take a more critical eye towards the paper, noticing some of the ‘slant’ that appeared within its pages. So long as I agreed with the slant, I was fine with it. To this day, it doesn’t bother me, except for when it does. And that is becoming ever more frequent.
When it does so, the Times strikes me as an elitist East coast publication absolutely drenched with condescension and arrogance. Upon seeing coverage of anything related to my home state of Michigan, my blood pressure normally doubles, so flippantly does it explore the ills of my home. And don’t even get me started on the columnists for the Times, either those on the right, or the left. I can’t think of a more unexciting, uninspired stable of mediocre talent in a major American national newspaper. They are, nearly without exception*, the most predictable, doctrinaire bunch of overpaid scribblers ever assembled under the banner of an august institution of American journalism. To my view, there’s no sin like that of being unoriginal. If anyone’s able, please remind me the last time that a Times columnist wrote something that had even a whiff of freshness to it. More likely, you’ll be as hard pressed as I am to come up with anything that was even close.
Now, the Times has the gall to start charging for access to content. We’re in the midst of the worst economic downturn seen in four generations. Am I going to pay for a subscription to the Times? Of course not. And I’m guessing that neither will the droves of readers for which they’re so fervently hoping. Much as this didn’t work the last time around they tried this asinine plan. There’s going to be a few people that’ll pony up for it, but nowhere near enough to offset the loss in readership they’re about to experience.
Just because the Sulzberger family has a rigged stock system and a penchant to run the Times Company like a family piggy bank does not mean that I’m going to spring to underwrite their boring condescension. And it’s too bad that they loaded themselves up with debt to build a fancy new skyscraper in midtown Manhattan that’s turned out to be a white elephant but that does not mean that I’m going to jump on board with the rest of the East Coast to read the hallowed pages of what’s in reality a highly overrated newspaper. There’s nothing the Times has that I can’t get from either Political Wire, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor or Al Jazeera. The online subscriptions are bad for business, it’s bad form, and, most of all, it’s not original. Do something original. You’ll find you can make money (lots) that way.
*The only decent columnist they have is David Brooks. And much of the time, I would love to see him loosen the hell up.