Friday, March 12, 2010

The news blues . . .

Most of my work days start about 7:15 a.m. with a look at The Washington Post, The New York Times, and CNN. If there is time, I might wander around through other metropolitan newspapers. Maybe some overseas ones, as well.

I do this online, of course, because I couldn't afford to look at them otherwise. (And I have a hard time watching CNN on television, because it's so cluttered with celebrities I don't know and scandals I don't care about.)

Okay, I'm a news junkie.I don't want to think about things without first informing myself at least semi-well about them.

At lunch last week with two other journalists, the three of us got to  talking about what a luxurious time the Internet Age this is for  news-aholics. Almost any newspaper is available to us at the click of a mouse. And reading all these far-flung newspapers in print would be both expensive and impractical.

Of course, we said, clucking our journalistic tongues, there's a lot of trash out there on the internet; a lot of people trying to pass off ill-informed, un-sourced opinion as legitimate news. But that's okay, we said, because we can always check the facts ourselves on all these wonderfully accessible, highly-reputable newspapers.

Then we got to talking about The New York Times' decision to start charging for online content in 2011. Our lunch-table consensus was that folks wouldn't pay; that, instead, most of us would regretfully stop reading The NY Times in favor of reading another paper that was still free. We'd gotten  in the habit of reading newspapers online in the first place mostly because they available and free. I, for one, certainly didn't used to start the day perusing three national news sources.

There have been polls (I found one online at The Economist) that say the three of us won't be alone in giving up on the The NY Times.


Of course, The NY Times isn't the only reputable news source that's going to start charging for internet access to its content. There's lots of boardroom rumble that other papers will as well, most notably those among Rupert Murdoch's empire.

Not news, I know. But at lunch with my fellow journalists last week, it occurred to me that a lot of us are now accustomed to getting at least some of our news online. It's there, and it also offers a way for us to participate in the national news discussion. In recognition of this changing behavior among its listeners, NPR now has a full-blown online division (for which I happily write about books and culture as a freelancer). And I'm spending more and more of my time producing online content for WMRA with the hope of  stimulating conversation among WMRA's informed community of listeners.

I would wager that most of the millennium generation look for most of their news online.

So what happens when all our reputable newspapers erect a pay wall and there's nothing left for free online but all that un-sourced opinion and provocative blather? Will we just read whatever's still available there free of charge and call ourselves informed?

This seemed a serious question to the three of us journalists at lunch. What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I probably wouldn't buy a subscription for myself, but I could see (maybe) buying a couple of Times subscriptions for Christmas presents. I don't really see it working--there would be a mass exodus to other free news sites.