TUESDAY’S LETTERS: Readers Kvetch About TimesSelect

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By: E&P Staff

Many readers have wrote in to express their displeasure at The New York Times’ decision to launch TimesSelect, an online subscription service that requires readers to pay $50 a year for its popular Op-Ed columnists, among other features. Below are several of the responses. But we also want to hear from those who have signed up for TimesSelect or the free 14-day trial. Was it a smooth sign-up process? Do the multi-media features deliver an added value? Send us an e-mail with your thoughts and we’ll publish them in this space tomorrow.

And now, for the kvetching:

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Times Select is not a viable model because many of us use various columnists who are affiliated with various newspapers. Imagine if all of the major newspapers adopted this model of $50 a year for access to their favorite writers. It would not be practical.

Major media can sell many more newspapers if they return to their primary function of providing their readership with in-depth coverage of the various issues and their future consequences and eliminating all of the political spin and outright lies.

Paul Krugman, Thomas Friedman, and Bob Herbert are three of my favorite writers because they are truth tellers and they provide links to the well-documented supporting facts. There are not enough truth tellers in major media. Instead, major media seems to cater to the powerful corporate and political interests.

I subscribe to the premium edition of Salon.com but there are two major differences. They offer much more than a few columnists, they offer a lot of excellent investigative reports, and there is also more international coverage of how America and Americans are viewed from abroad. The cost for this is $30 per year and it is a good value. … But Salon also offers an alternative to the premium subscription, which is viewing online ads.

Again, Salon is maintaining their readership base and increasing it and the content is paid for one way or the other.

However, I will not be subscribing to TimesSelect. This is an overpriced service and the news coverage in the New York Times frequently does not meet basic journalistic standards. Remember all of the leaks from Ken Starr, which were published without challenge? These news articles were never based on fact, just as Judith Miller’s articles on WMDs and Iraq were also a hoax. Why is the NYT not challenging Judith Miller to reveal what she knows about revealing the identity of the CIA operative. She is protecting the interests of herself and the neo-cons, instead of protecting the interests of the public.

The New York Times needs to return to its high journalistic standards of the past. There was a time, when I always went to the NYT to read the full, unadulterated truth on any issue of note. My local paper might not provide full, in-depth coverage, but I could always count on the NYT. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in recent years.

If the NYT is concerned about increasing income, then they should look at their organization from top to bottom and bring its management team and organization into compliance with the highest journalistic standards.

Linda Moore
Dallas, Texas

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As a volunteer first responder for 35 years I may feel closer to both the news and the news reporters than many citizens, having first hand experience with many of the events written about. I’m a daily reader of the New York Times for the same amount of time, and I love the Op-Ed columns the Times has begun charging for today, and have written many times to those columnists. Occasionally I even receive a reply.

Alas, now I myself am one of the disabled on a fixed income, and I cannot afford to subscribe to the paper to which I have been loyal. I cannot even afford the medications I desperately need, or to eat the entire month, so I qualify as one of those desperately poor that Krugman, Herbert, et al. write about regularly. In the event of a mass casualty incident in New York City, I would be one of those who could not evacuate.

As the New York Times reports on the shame of poverty exposed by Katrina, and editorializes about how the poor are left behind to wither and die on so many levels, they as well increase our marginalization by exacting fees that exclude us. It felt like a slap in the face.

I wrote a letter to the editor of the NY Times about this issue (see below); it was forwarded to the customer service department (response below original letter). The inappropriateness of their response was revealing.

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Dear New York Times:

I am extremely upset to see that the NY Times will be charging a subscription fee to read the Op-Ed columnists of the editorial page, and many other features.

I am a disabled woman who lives on a fixed income of $666.00 per month, and I cannot afford several medications, which are medically necessary for me to delay my demise. I go without food for several days each month. There is no way I can afford a subscription to read these columns, which are emotionally very important to me. I’m very sorry to miss them, I have been reading them for many years, and on many days they keep me going despite pain and immobility. I know for a fact that I am not alone, there are many people in my situation. Many of us still contribute to society in every way still possible for us, giving in every way we still can.

Do you really need the money so badly that you will deny so many aspects of the paper to so many people who are loyal readers and need you?

What does “Select” mean in this context? It certainly doesn’t include the poor, the sick, the disabled, or children. It doesn’t include many who suffer discrimination in employment that marginalizes them economically. What does it mean that we who most need knowledge, critical thinking, and access beyond our four walls are penalized for circumstances well beyond our control? Does “Select” equal “only middle and upper class”?

Sincerely,

Joy Kallio
New York, N.Y.

Response from The New York Times’ customer service department:

Thank you for contacting NYTimes.com about our plan to charge for Op-Ed columns and some of our newsroom columnists.

We have passed along your comments to our colleagues.

Please understand that the vast majority of our news, features and multimedia will remain free including our Editorials and Letters to the Editor.

Additionally, the distinct voices of our columnists will continue to be readily available in the paper edition on newsstands, and through libraries, colleges and universities. TimesSelect is a premium online product that offers readers tremendous value beyond what they will find in the newspaper or even at NYTimes.com. This includes multimedia and more interactive content, access to the vast archives of the newspaper back to 1981, and organizational tools that will help one find, retrieve and store the news and information of greatest interest.

From its beginning, NYTimes.com has been almost entirely supported by advertising. While our business is strong and growing, with TimesSelect we are taking a modest — and prudent — step toward diversifying that financial base so that we can continue to bring you exceptional journalism on the Web from around the world.

We deeply appreciate your readership and hope that you will continue to be a frequent user of our site.

Again, thank you for sending us a note.

Regards,

Name Redacted
NYTimes.com
Customer Service
www.nytimes.com/help

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That’s all, Folks.

TimesSelect and I’m gone. Enjoyed your online publication for years, but I guess I’m stuck with the LA Times from now on.

Jim Schupp
Los Angeles, Calif.

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I wonder if I should reveal this…since the Times may decide to block them. But if your library subscribes to Lexis-Nexis, you can always read the columns a day later in that database. Of course, Lexis-Nexis is pretty expensive, and only corporate/public/academic libraries, I suppose, can afford it. Still, it’s a good way to get your belated Krugman/Herbert/Dowd fix.

Peter Stern, Ph.D.
Adjunct Asst. Professor, History Department
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Amherst Mass.

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The latest Judith Miller story, found here, unleashed the following letter:

Judith Miller is a traitor to truth, to Democracy, and to the American people. She is where she belongs. Fitzpatrick will probably charge her with criminal contempt and then throw away the key to her jail cell.

If you believe so much in her innocence, you should do the right thing. Join her in jail and make a statement. Hopefully Arthur Sulzberger, jr. and Keller will join the two of you. It is apparent that you don’t think Judith Miller is a traitor to the American people — I guess you still think that there were WMD in Iraq, that Saddam had something to do with 9/11 and that Saddam and al Qaeda were in league with each other. These are just a few of the betrayals of Judith Miller. Moreover, Judith Miller has no immunity or confidentiality when it comes to hiding a felon, especially a felon that robs the U.S. of someone who could protect this country and your family from another attack that actually could contain atomic particles.

Hank McCann

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In the latest “Pressing Issues” column, Greg Mitchell wonders about the musicians of New Orleans, and whether they escaped Hurricane Katrina unscathed. One reader responded with the following good news:

Just read your latest “Pressing Issues” column (9/19) and wanted to let you know that I learned from a family friend (via craigslist.com) that Wendell Brunious was performing in Belgium at the time of the hurricane. His wife and kids evacuated safely.

I don’t know who is in his traveling band and I did a “lost and found” search for Bob French and found nothing.

Martha Smith
Newport, Ore.

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