Quality journalism costs says the Times

The Times Online has explained why the venerable daily newspaper and its voluminous Sunday counterpart will be two of the first UK journals to be trapped behind a pay wall.

A un-named Murdoch hack writes: "At the Sunday Times we put an enormous amount of money and effort into producing the best journalism we possibly can. If we keep giving it away we will no longer be able to do that. Inevitably the spending will decline, and with it the quality of the journalism. We will no longer be able to let reporters pursue stories for weeks on end (our investigation of MPs’ lobbying has taken the Insight team eight weeks) or send correspondents to spend months in Afghanistan or Iraq. Such practices are expensive, and there is always a risk they will be unproductive."

For 'unproductive' you should, of course, read 'unprofitable'. The Rupert Murdoch-owned news outfit is planning to charge £1 a day for the Times, or £2 a week for the Times and the Sunday Times, which given the Sunday Times on its own weighs in at £2 (and about 2 pounds in weight... enough for a whole week of reading in the council house library) seems like a pretty good deal.

Without that cash, the Times insists that we will all suffer. "Without this investment, the British public would see a steady fall in the quality and diversity of the information they receive and learn less about how they are governed. We have perhaps the most lively and competitive press in the world, but that has been possible only because it is based on commercial success."

The problem is, although Times journalists are undoubtedly among the best trained (and best paid) in the world, news gathering has been democratised by technology. Most people have access to a laptop, a digital camera and sufficient eduction to enable them to string together a reasonably erudite sentence. Even the Times recognises that people-powered news is a force to be reckoned with.

"We acknowledge the risk involved when much other good journalism is still available free online. However, we believe that if we are transparent with our readers and explain the financial realities, they will support our move," that statement's author said.

Our BBC-loathing hack continued: "Ultimately we think that other newspapers will follow, and that the only free content online will be of inferior quality or supplied by the BBC. Even that organisation is finally beginning to realise it should stop trying to become a publisher online, and is cutting back on its massive Internet spending."

Journalism is no longer the exclusive domain of the Oxbridge-educated Fleet Street old boys' club. But the dinosaurs at the Times, like the music industry moguls caught on the hop by the advent of Mp3 before them, continue to dig in their heels and insist that everything has to stay the same.

It's never been truer that you can't get something for nothing in this life. Just take a look around you. THINQ is supported by paying advertisers. You might not like it, but without it, we wouldn't get paid. And THINQ, and a million other websites like it, would cease to exist.

But news journalism isn't about paying two-bit celebrities tens of thousands of pounds a week for their 'opinions'. And the metrics of digitally-delivered news content will continue to reform the way we produce, disseminate and consume news, whether the Times likes it or not.

Whether people will actually pay for the new model newspapers will depend entirely on how easy it is to pay, and wether the content can be easily transferred between devices.

"We are in the midst of a publishing revolution, and if we get our finances right, you, our valued readers, will benefit from a new golden age in which we can devote more time and money to bringing you the very best journalism in the finest traditions of The Sunday Times," says the statement.

Well here's our statement: Let us buy a week's worth of news when we want to buy it using a simple one-click system like Amazon or Paypal. And let us read it on our phones, laptops, iPods, TV sets and desktop computers without jumping through DRM hoops and filling in forms every five seconds, and our shiny two quid is yours, Rupert.

If you don't think Murdoch has a hand in his papers' editorials read this. Beware though, it's from the Daily Mail.

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