I haven’t ready any of the New York Times Op-Ed commentators in at least six months, ever since they put them behind the pay-only TimesSelect wall. I have no idea what any of them are saying these days. I think I saw that they’ve got Ted Koppel in there now, too. I wonder what he’s saying in there? I have no idea.
Sometimes other web sites and blogs will excerpt a paragraph or two from TS commentators, but even this seems increasingly rare. Usually, their essays are non-existent to those of us who are not TS members (or print edition subscribers). It makes me wonder how much these commentators are shaping the national discourse the way they used to. It’s hard to have a ripple effect when you’re throwing stones in a small private pool.
But then again, perhaps the private pool is all that matters. Maybe the truly influential people in media and government who matter most are, in fact, subscribers and members, and it’s just low-lifes like me, people are too cheap to pay fifty bucks for access, who are left out.
On the other hand, low-lifes like me, bloggers especially, are increasingly playing a larger role in politics. Most political bloggers have bit the bullet and paid for TS, but they can’t include links to full-length articles.
I’m sure there are illegal backdoor techniques to get into TimesSelect, but I haven’t tried any, and besides I don’t want to have to bend over backwards and twist myself up ethically to read this stuff, anyway. I may, of course, break down and pay someday, but for now I guess I’m playing a game of chicken with the Times: I’m hoping that they will give in before I do.
None of this, of course, questions the Times’ decision on business grounds. This may well turn out to be a short-term success story, at least financially. As far as the long-term effects of limiting the range of their editorial voice, we shall see.