Monday, April 11, 2016

The New York Times was right NOT to collaborate with the Panama Papers Leak because paying subscribers want original content that no one else has.

This weekend on NPR's "All Things Considered" program, the host Ari Shapiro interviewed several people at the center of the Panama Papers Leak, which has an estimated 11.5 million files and has been a collaboration of hundreds of media outlets around the world. The interview, which is pretty fascinating, went over how the whole thing got started and how a team worked in more than 25 languages so that they could all publish their stories at the same time.

Of particular interest to me was a section of the interview in which Ari asked (I think it was Gerard Ryle but my memory fails) the question, "Why do you think this hasn't been a bigger story in the United States?" He offered up the answer that the major newspaper outlets like The New York Times refused to collaborate on the story, and it just wouldn't work out. He claimed that newspapers like The New York Times still have a "We can do this on our own" mentality, and said that this is out of step with the modern times where all information is shared.

I actually had some strong opinions about this. First off, I think that opinion is wrong. I happen to have a New York Times subscription, and I don't subscribe to that paper so that I can read what everyone else is printing. That's what "shared content" means. It's the same as when a Walking Dead episode airs and everyone from Forbes to Vanity Fair to yours truly puts up a post about the episode and tries to single out one or two things that maybe no one else has said (which is impossible to do).
Truly original content is how newspapers make their mark in a digital world overrun by the same
stories printed and reprinted off of the associated press. 
For me, the Times has carefully cultivated a resource of extremely good writers who have (among them) credentials like Nobel Prizes, Pulitzer Prizes, and Peabody awards. In a day and age where everyone and their dog can throw up an opinion online, I fall back on credentials when I look to my news. I also want opinions that I can't find anywhere else, and The New York Times has some of the best opinion pages I've seen. And if I pay for something, I want original content.

I hate that there are journalists out there who despise The New York Times because they have a "we can do this on our own" mentality. That's precisely what makes The New York Times worth subscribing to. Otherwise, why even have news outlets at all? We could all just get our news from Twitter (which would be horrible by the way). The New York Times allows me to read the opinions of some of the smartest, most influential people in the world, and what they have to say has value to me.


  1. Do you get the print or electronic edition?
    I think it is leaning toward shared knowledge. (Crap, it's the hive mind mentality!) Of course, with print papers dead and news appearing online at other outlets faster than with a newspaper (even online), they have to do something unique to survive.

    1. I subscribe to the electronic edition. I can read it online or through my iPad app. I love the iPad app version. It's quite nice.

  2. I haven't heard much about the Panama Papers. Maybe people just aren't that interested. Original content is always better.

  3. I agree that it's important to consider the source of the news you ingest. If it's from FOX I automatically dismiss it.

  4. Or it's just another story like Occupy Wall Street or Bernie Sanders' candidacy that the major news outlets (all owned by huge corporations now) don't want to shine a light on because it makes our corporate masters look bad.

  5. "...this is out of step with the modern times where all information is shared..."

    This makes me think of scientific inquiry. Ideally, all information should be shared there. And that's what scientists say they do. It's only when we start putting monetary value on the learning that things get compartmentalized and not shared.

    Not really pertinent to your point, but it's what popped into my head when I read that.

  6. I have an electronic subscription to the NY Times too, and while I'm excited about the Panama papers and glad to see the financial corruption secrets of national and corporate leaders exposed, I don't have any problem with the Times not being part a primary broadcaster of the Papers. After all, the Times was not a member of the Consortium of journalists that investigated the Papers. Instead, the Times' role now is to cover the consequences of the release of these Papers and then to launch their own related investigation (at least I hope they will).