I get why paywalls exist. Good writing needs to be financially supported and if ad revenue isn’t able to provide (or is against an aesthetic) a paywall ensures a continuation of the subscriber-based model from print days. Simple right? But what if you haven’t the budget for it? Like me. I am frustrated a lot that some of the outlets I used to go to for media are locked tighter than a conservative voter’s mind. I recently begged an editor friend to open up a few more stories at their trade publication so I could send some traffic their way and he pointed out that it would basically spell the end of the entire endeavour. I get it. Except, when you put all the good writing behind a paywall, you end up hiding the truth while all the lies of the internet remain free. How do we mitigate this? The Guardian takes donations to remain free (and I donate a few times a year when I have cash), but other than charity or state sponsorship (also dangerous in its own way), how do we move forward? Fascinating article here.
Now, crucially, I do not mean to imply here that reading the New York Times gives you a sound grasp of reality. I have documented many times how the Times misleads people, for instance by repeating the dubious idea that we have a “border crisis” of migrants “pouring into” the country or that Russia is trying to “steal” life-saving vaccine research that should be free anyway. But it’s important to understand the problem with the Times: it is not that the facts it reports tend to be inaccurate—though sometimes they are—but that the facts are presented in a way that misleads. There is no single “fact” in the migrant story or the Russia story that I take issue with, what I take issue with is the conclusions that are being drawn from the facts. (Likewise, the headline “U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest For A-Bomb Parts” is technically accurate: the U.S. government did, in fact, say that. It was just not true.) The New York Times is, in fact, extremely valuable, if you read it critically and look past the headlines. Usually the truth is in there somewhere, as there is a great deal of excellent reporting, and one could almost construct a serious newspaper purely from material culled from the New York Times. I’ve written before about the Times’ reporting on Hitler and the Holocaust: it wasn’t that the grim facts of the situation were left out of the paper, but that they were buried at the back and treated as unimportant. It was changes in emphasis that were needed, because the facts were there in black and white.
This means that a lot of the most vital information will end up locked behind the paywall. And while I am not much of a New Yorker fan either, it’s concerning that the Hoover Institute will freely give you Richard Epstein’s infamous article downplaying the threat of coronavirus, but Isaac Chotiner’s interview demolishing Epstein requires a monthly subscription, meaning that the lie is more accessible than its refutation. Eric Levitz of New York is one of the best and most prolific left political commentators we have. But unless you’re a subscriber of New York, you won’t get to hear much of what he has to say each month.