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Is Times' news worth the costly clicks?

April 04, 2011

Talk about conflicted. I like The New York Times. I am also cheap. I’ve gotten used to free newspaper content on the Web. But I want to get paid on Friday.

So you will excuse me if I’ve had a little more trouble than most in sorting out the pros and cons of the Times’ new website subscription policy.

In a nutshell, the Times is giving you 20 free clicks, or 20 free stories, a month; after that, you have to pay. There’s more to it and it’s all explained in a “Message from the Publisher” link on the newspaper’s website.

But I’m too smart for that — you hit that link and you only have 19 left. Nice try, New York Times.

So now I have to be more choosy about my news. For example, when I see the headline “Vast Gene Study Yields Insights on Alzheimer’s,” I’m not even tempted because I strongly believe that all medical studies are bogus and probably publicly paid for to boot.

By the same token, Paul Krugman’s “Truth About Climate Change Still Inconvenient” might be interesting enough, but it’s been done — by Times columnists in particular. Even their movie reviewers stop in the middle of a piece on “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” to remind readers about the dangers of global warming.

So I move on to the headline “2 Qaddafi Sons Are Said to Offer Plan to Push Father Out.” I confess to being slightly interested in an African Mick Jagger look-alike whose bodyguard is a chick. But I’m a results kind of guy. I don’t go for process, so wake me when it’s over. Besides, the media have had 40 years now, and I’m not paying them one dime until they can all agree on how to spell his name. Moving on ...

“2012 Republican Strategy Puts Focus on Timing.”

Please.

“Biden to Discuss New Guidelines About Campus Sex Crimes.”

The Times is just begging to go under.

I’m mildly curious about the story “BP Seeks to Resume Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.” It reminds me of having to wait a decent amount of time to remarry after you’ve lost a spouse. After you have destroyed the environment of an entire ocean, what’s the proper waiting period before you ask if it’s OK for you to go back in?

But, truth be told, I can probably read that story on a free site, so I hate to waste my chips here.

OK, so far I’m doing pretty good. It’s April 4 and I still have all my 20 clicks left. And I don’t want to read Times’ stories about the NBA, the wallpaper in some house in Queens, “American Idol,” cooking with mangoes, the royal wedding, the obituary of Edwin Gaustad or “36 Hours in Louisville, Ky.” God give me strength. Their car review is of some exotic type that I can’t afford, so why bother?

In fact, the Times is making saving money not only easy, but fun.

Except — as a journalist myself, should I really be looking to duck newspaper fees at every turn? That doesn’t seem right. It seems like, out of professional courtesy, I ought to be clicking their stories for all I’m worth.

And with newspapers everywhere cutting back to the bone, there aren’t a whole lot of other places to go for firsthand reports. Most foreign desks are now run out of a Western Union in La Paz.

But then I think, would any of the New York Times writers read anything I wrote if they had to pay? Or even if they didn’t?

Guess that solves my dilemma, doesn’t it?

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or by email at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant at www.herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable’s WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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