In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been engaging in a subtle protest for the past few weeks. Probably you haven’t, because it’s probably a bit too subtle: I’ve stopped linking the New York Times. It’s not just about their new paid subscription policy, which is definitely annoying. Actually, now that I think about it, it is just about the paid subscription policy — it’s incredibly annoying.
I understand the idea of paying for quality reporting, but blogging is something different. The point is to share a conversation about ideas, and if I link to an NYT article, then many of my readers aren’t going to have a subscription, so they’re not going to be able to participate. So the subtle protest part is that I’m now not linking to any NYT article, paid or not. You want to withhold the good stuff, then I’m not going to play with you at all.
The result is that I’ve had to change my online newspaper of record. In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve settled on the Washington Post. Now there are several differences between WaPo and the NYT, and it’s taking me a while to decide whether these differences matter, or whether I can begin to live with them. One stylistic aspect of the print edition of the NYT that turns out to be handy online is that the Times generally has long headlines. For example, the WaPo Wilma headline is “Wilma Surprises Fla. Residents.” The NYT version is “Florida: Millions Are Still Without Power and in Need of Basic Supplies.” While the WaPo headline offers more opportunity for a snarky retort (what, five days’ warning wasn’t enough?), I get much more information from the NYT headline. I can scan the NYT front page and have a good general idea of what’s happened across the nation (as well as what subway lines are down). With WaPo, scanning the front page involves more guesswork.
On the other hand, I do like the fact that WaPo is now linked to Technorati. Any blog commenting on a Post article gets indexed by Technorati within 30 minutes or so, and there’s a link to the most recent three right next to the article. All I have to do is link to an article — say, this one, and BAM! Word Munger is on the Post! Well, at least until three other blogs link to the same article.
What about the reporting? Much difference there? I don’t think so. Both papers seem to go about the same level of depth, and report on the same issues. Maybe the Times articles are a bit longer, but I haven’t been feeling like I’m missing out on the news since I switched. The Post’s Op-ed section does seem to have a higher proportion of screwballs, but I think I actually like this feature. I’m glad to see more voices that I disagree with.
Overall, I’d say the Times’ switch to charging for its content has been a big plus for me — it’s forced me to look at other news outlets, and learn that what the Times is selling ain’t worth it.