Well, the results of my impromptu survey on the place of TimesSelect on
The Corner are in. Corner readers have spoken, and their decision is
clear. By a margin of 84 percent to 16 percent (117 votes to 22), Corner
readers do very much want to hear what Corner writers have to say about New York Times Op-Eds. No way does this mean that Corner fans love the Times. Nearly everyone who wrote in had something nasty to say about that paper.
Some of the folks who don’t want to hear about the Times think of their
policy as a deliberate boycott. Others simply say the Gray Lady should be
allowed to sink into the irrelevance she’s so richly earned. A few refuse
to pay the fee, and feel bad when confronted with a link to a site they
would never even consider subscribing to.
Those who do want to hear about Times Op-Eds (the vast majority) almost uniformly emphasize that they will never enroll in TimesSelect. Corner
readers apparently can’t stomach the idea of stuffing greenbacks into
Pinch’s purse. Some see Corner-posters as unfortunate soldiers now
duty-bound to read Krugman, Rich, and Dowd for the sake of keeping
conservatives everywhere informed. One correspondent compared reading
liberal Times Op-Eds for the sake of informing the conservative public to a
secret service agent taking a bullet for the president. “Know your enemy,”
was a phrase used more than once. “Someone has got to call those bozos on
their errors,” was another widespread sentiment.
Many readers resented having to give up Brooks and Tierney, but few were
willing to subsidize the Times as a whole just to get access to these
conservative columnists. In general, the main objection was not to reading
liberal Op-Ed’s per se, but to subsidizing a newspaper that claims to be
fair but is in fact totally biased. A number recommended picking up free
copies of the Times left at Starbucks as a way to read Op-Ed’s without
actually paying a premium to Pinch. On the other hand, a couple of readers
pointed out that it was not particularly conservative to object to paying
money for a desired service.
Quite a few readers put conditions on their vote. They want “subscription
only” warnings before any links to TimesSelect. Others only want to hear
about subscriber-limited articles if Cornerites include quotes, or brief
descriptions of the original Op-Ed, in their posts–enough so that the post
makes sense without the link. A number of folks noted that The Corner
often links to subscriber restricted material at WSJ–and even at NRODT. So
why, they ask, should the Times be left out? A few people provided
alternative links, or hints on how to get reprints or alternative access to
TimesSelect material on the web. But I’m not going to go there.
In general, there was a feeling that it would be a shame to make something
as influential as the Times, biased as it is, off-limits on The
Corner. There was a strong John Stuart Millian sense that it would be
wrong to ignore important opinions, however much we may disagree with
them. More than one reader warned against an ostrich syndrome. Some said
they’d trust me to fairly represent a Times Op-Ed that they themselves
couldn’t read–because they know if I made a mistake another Cornerite would
hold my feet to the fire a little later that day.
A number of readers who do have a habit of looking at the New York Times Op-Eds specifically turn to The Corner for conservative response and commentary. Actually, that was my own experience before I ever wrote for NRO–and before The Corner even existed. I first discovered NRO in 1998 or 1999, when I was at the University of Chicago. I was an increasingly
alienated reader of the daily New York Times, and found myself going back
to NRO again and again to get a non-Times inflected view (i.e. a
non-liberal view) of the day’s events.
So while I appreciate the anti-Times complaints of the nays (complaints
that are clearly echoed by just about everyone who wrote in), I am going to
keep discussing New York Times Op-Ed’s on The Corner. But I will try to
put in subscriber warnings, and include fair-use summaries or quotes when
possible. (Of course, Times Op-Ed’s that mention Star Trek will have
priority for reply.) Thanks to all for your responses.