The onset of 2012 did bring with it one piece of bad news (in addition to the sudden onset of actual winter temperatures in Baltimore) – the lapse of my grace period for free, unlimited access to The New York Times. I haven’t run in to any problems with the paywall yet, but I am anticipating them, since I get the headlines emailed daily and follow the paper on both Facebook and Twitter. I subscribed to the paper for a year in college, when a course called “Reading the New York Times” came with a substantially discounted subscription. And yes, it was a liberal arts college. Since then, a daily newspaper hasn’t really been in my budget. In fact, since my “periodicals” budget is a $10 subscription to Baltimore magazine, I don’t anticipate splurging on even online access to the Times. If I run out of reads per month, I’ll probably stick to NPR and other sources for the news.
And I feel a little bad about this. I have a number of friends who work in journalism, in one form or another, and I do really enjoy reading actual News Reporting (and not just AP-style summations). I think there is a lot of good and important writing still going on in newspapers – like the LA Times‘ recent series on autism is a recent example – but I also think there’s a lot of dreck in newspapers too. My parents continue to subscribe to the Chicago Tribune, mostly for the sports coverage and the food section, and they complain frequently about the downgrade of content. (My parents also subscribe to the NYT, though I suspect it’s mostly so my mom can read the Vows section and reassure me with comforting stories every time I have a relationship breakdown. Money well spent, probably.) The paper is thinner (both the number of pages and quality of paper). Fonts are bigger and there’s more large pictures (mostly advertisements). More outside reporting is drawn from wire sources. Etc.
I realize I’m not adding anything valuable to an ongoing debate about the Future of Newspapers. My one point is that I still very much believe there’s interest in good newspaper-type journalism, I just don’t think that they’ve found the right price point or distribution methods; at least, not yet.