By: E&P Staff
It will be interesting to see how this winds up, but many popular bloggers have declared that the new New York Times online policy — which puts its influential columnists behind the “paid” wall — offers a major boost for the blogosphere, and the loss of real online clout for the Times.
Jay Rosen at his Pressthink blog made this point, and others, Thursday, arguing that with a thousand flowers of opinion blooming on the Web every day, who needs the tired views of the Times’ veterans?
Today, Mark Karlin, who runs Buzzflash.com, said, “It is rather noteworthy that the New York Times chose to force readers to pay to read their columnists, many of whom remain the sole progressive voices in the establishment newspaper of the status quo. It certainly appears a curious choice, considering that Judith Miller’s erroneous stories would still be free, were she free to be an administration conduit once again.”
Markos Moulitsas, founder of the top liberal political blog Daily Kos, wrote the following, in response to the new TimesSelect policy:
Every columnist’s goal is to influence public opinion. That’s why they put up with the abuse that every single column generates. Because they hope their voice has an effect in the public debate.
And there are a million voices out there, all clamoring for a piece of the “influence” factor, especially now with the advent of the weblog. Opinion is a commodity, with more to be found than could ever be processed by anyone.
In addition, publications (and broadcasters) seek to aggregate those influential voices into a greater whole — an institution that can shape and move public opinion. With mass influence comes prestige, power, and all manners of perks.
The Wall Street Journal is not stupid. They’re smart. They’ve put their news content behind a pay wall and have done quite well revenue-wise for their troubles. BUT, they also want to influence public opinion. And being a key component of the Right Wing Noise Machine, the WSJ editorial board has made sure their opinion material is accessible to everyone. Heck, they have a guy emailing their content to bloggers. They even have a separate site for it: OpinionJournal.com.
You want your dose of Peggy Noonan (must … supress … gag reflex), or John Fund, or James Taranto? You’ve got them. No pesky paywall between their opinion content and the people they hope to influence.
The New York Times, on the other hand, is the textbook definition of stupid. They take the one part of the paper that is a commodity — the opinion — and try to charge for that. No Krugman? Who cares. Give me Brad DeLong. No Bob Herbert? Whatever. Give me James Wolcott or anyone at the American Prospect or Washington Monthly. Or any of the thousands of columnists at other newspapers, and the tens of thousands of political bloggers.
In this world, no one is special, no one is irreplaceable. In the old world of syndicated columnists, that might bruise some egos. Especially in the rarified air of the NY Times (they think their shit don’t stink). But the world has changed. And for the better.
Suddenly, overnight, Brooks and Friendman and Krugman and Herbert have been ripped out of the national debate. Whatever void that might have created has already been filled by the multitudes of voices in the sphere.
So the Wall Street Journal works hard to be a top influencer in the national debate. And the New York Times works hard to become a provincial paper.