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The NYT is Stuck on Stupid

September 20th, 2005 - 10:31 pm

The New York Times is getting rid of 500 employees:

The Times said it expected 250 jobs at its main newspaper group to be affected, which includes the Times, the International Herald Tribune and the online operation of the Times. Of those job cuts, about 45 will come from the Times’ newsroom, the company said in a statement.

This, in the same week the NYT walled off its Opinion page to all but paid subscribers. Stupid.

Opinions are cheap. Everybody has one and, as the blogosphere has shown, it doesn’t take any superhuman skill to express an opinion in a readable way.

Reporting is expensive. Not everyone has the time to go out and find stories. Not everyone can afford a research staff. Not everyone has the skill to develop and maintain useful contacts.

Look. I usually suspect any New York Times story to be biased – but I can expect it to be researched and fact-checked. And in this day and age, I can rely on some smart blogger somewhere to tell me exactly what the NYT got wrong. But what I can’t expect blogs to do – at least not yet – is to do the dreary, day-in-day-out work of getting the news in the first place. For all its faults, the MSM is still far better than blogs at reporting.

Given all that, do recent decisions at the New York Times make any sense? They’re forcing people to pay for opinions they can get most anywhere else for free, while cutting back on doing the one thing they can still do better than anyone else. The New York Times, in other words, is eating its seed corn.

Sure, the NYT may improve online revenues by charging for opinion pieces. But is it really in their best interest to wring extra money out of Maureen Dowd, if they’re going to cut back on the reporters who do the only work there worth paying for?

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