The Price of Information & The Reactionary Impulse

Blogs are a wonderful service that allow non-professional writers like myself to provide information to internet readers free of charge for the most part.  While I love to write blogs, read blogs, and comment on other blogs regarding food and booze, I'm a newspaper reader when it comes to current events.  There are simply some subjects that require the proper time, pontification, fact gathering, and resources that a only professionally-paid journalist has the time, access, and ability to do.  Personally, I rely on the New York Times every morning to inform me about what's going on in the world.  Recently I switched from a print subscription to a Kindle subscription and so far I am very satifsfied.  The price is very fair, especially compared to the print rate, and I'm not carrying a bunch of dirty paper around with me everywhere I go.  Newspapers have long been giving out their information for free on the internet, but I don't like to read for too long on the computer, so I prefer to pay for the Kindle format.  There are three reasons behind my logic:

1) I don't like to read on backlit screens for more than 10 - 15 minutes

3) I hate all the pop-up advertisements

3) I cannot help but read the knee-jerk comments from other readers and they only raise my blood pressure

The New York Times however, following the lead of a few other periodicals, decided yesterday to begin charging a monthly fee for access to its online site - a move that seems long overdue and more than justified.  Newspapers are not free, so why should the website version be?  If you were to pay for the print version of the Times everyday it would cost you more than $40 a month.  The price per month to read the website is $15.  For viewers who just want to read an article every now and then, one can access 20 free articles every month before having to subscribe. 

Even though the Times is a for-profit business, many readers still could not believe the turn of events.  Foolishly enough, I decided to read their comments (which are now deactivated) and, as fully expected, my morning zen was completely lost.  95% of the commenters were outraged and vowed to never return to the Times webpage - as if they were contributing anything to begin with!  Some accused the publication of a socio-economic bias.  Others pleaded because they could not afford to pay the fee. 

The reactionary impulse from many people in moments of stress or change is anger.  Anger invariably leads to comments or actions that are later regretted or shown to be incorrect after the proper contemplation.  Anger can cloud the mind and prevent us from thinking logically.  Anger can make us look and behave very foolish.  Nonetheless, the internet has provided us with countless opportunities to react immediately after processing information that could anger some readers.  In this case, people felt entitled to their free information regardless of the fact that the Times must pay its employees to gather it.  Rather than consider this fact, most decided to follow their instinctive impulse, their id so to speak, and give the New York Times a piece of their mind, hoping that it would help to show the Times how foolishly they were behaving.  The irony is incredible.

Information is free so long as the provider is willing to provide it as such.  Blogs are free because they are normally wrriten by hobbiests that are grateful for the attention. NPR is free because our tax dollars pay for it.  The New York Times, however, is a service you pay for.  

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll