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“For those of us who work in media, life is a drumbeat of goodbye speeches with sheet cakes and cheap sparkling wine. That carnage has left behind an island of misfit toys, trains whose cabooses have square wheels and bird fish who are trying to swim in thin air.” – David Carr

Tonight, I watched Page One: Inside the New York Times. I must admit, for a conservative who wonders why that paper still continues to pay a hack like Paul Krugman a salary, I enjoyed it.

I mean, let’s be honest, the Times could pay anyone a fraction of the price to write 400 word blog posts that pretty much say: “Republicans = Bad, Democrats, Stimulus, Broken Windows & Fake Alien Wars = Good.” It’s a shame that Ezra Klein is more interesting to read than a Nobel Prize Laureate, but this is the curse of the Times. When you pay for what you think caters to readers, you get stuck with people like Paul Krugman.

Unlike most Conservatives, I don’t absolutely hate the Times. If it were affordable to subscribe, I’d probably pay for it. Heck, most people like reading something that gets their blood boiling. The problem is that the Times has adopted a model that allows me get my blood boiling, and leave, and come back later. For free.

This is not a good way to run a newspaper.

The Wall Street Journal, a paper whose editorial board is much more closely aligned to my line of thinking is far cheaper for a digital subscription. The Washington Post, cheaper than both, offers a free daily called The Express as well as a facebook application. I am not sure that cannibalizing your product with free ones makes much sense, but the Washington Post Co. owns a lot of diversified things — some even call their news business secondary.

Why, though, would I ever subscribe to the New York Times?

Most journalistic entities have been cutting back significantly in recent years. If one looks at the combination of how declining advertising revenues and the internet have affected things, it’s not a surprise the Times is in trouble.

All things considered, the movie was very positive for the Times. Sure, it focused on layoffs — which suck — but also brought in voices that (in this writer’s opinion) spoke truth to power. The Times gave away its writing for free for far too long. In short, they misunderstood the internet. Craigslist and other sites took a lot away.

Some people will say they still are giving away half the store.  Especially to individuals like myself who will only read the times for selective reasons. The Journal, however, has a pay wall that many of my friends complain that they cannot penetrate when I link to articles on this site.

The documentary keenly notes, journalism is not free. If it is, you get what you pay for. I see David Carr as sort of the Harvey Pekar of the Times. He’s had a rough go in life, got his shit in order, and now just speaks his mind. It’s evident (at least in the documentary) that he is a very fair minded individual.

One thing I did not agree with is the coverage insinuating that the Jayson Blair scandal and the Judith Miller Iraq war reporting were to blame for the diminished prospects of the Times. Of course, nobody will claim that either incident was beneficial for the paper, but irregardless of these situations, the Times would likely be no better off than it is today if neither had happened.

Another thing that bothers me is how others in media later tried making the film into putty for their specific worldview. Media types from across the globe  covered the documentary, mostly heaping praise. However, a few missed the mark. One is Eric Deggans from The Tampa Bay Times. He writes:

There are problems: The film flits across topics and there is a still-surprising lack of gender and racial diversity among the flood of staffers and talking heads featured (except in one place: All the people shown leaving the paper during downsizing are middle-aged women).

Anyone who has watched the film knows that it focuses on (about 7) of the Times’ nearly 1,200 employees (before layoffs). Yes, Eric, among the small subset of people on film, there is a lack of gender and racial diversity. Thanks for the serving of red herring.

Silly reviews from people who want to contort the film to confirm their biases aside, the film (available on Amazon Prime streaming for free) is definitely worth a watch.

I think it provides (independent of its love affair for the Times) a good, balanced view of the state of media today. 

 FOLLOW UP: What interesting timing.

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