Tooth-to-Tail Ratios in the News Business

by Reihan Salam

Tim Lee dismantles one argument for the New York Times paywall, namely the value of shoe-leather reporting. The truth is that most of what the Times does doesn’t really involve shoe-leather reporting, and the best way to get more high-quality investigative journalism might be to donate money to non-profit ProPublica rather than to dutifully pay for a product sold by a for-profit company.

My own view is that we definitely should not pay for the Times out of a sense of obligation to serious journalism, for all the reasons Tim outlines. Rather, we should pay for it if, well, we want to read it badly enough to pay for it, i.e., if the Times creates an engaging enough experience and a strong enough brand to get people to shell out real money. And as someone who writes for a newspaper that’s trying to persuade people to pay for news presented in an attractive, compelling fashion, I don’t think that this is an impossible task.