I was bemused to find out today that the Globe is going to start allowing only a few free articles a month to its online readers, after which they will have to pay a charge, à la New York Times, starting this fall.
Unlike many red-meat eating conbots, I’m not going to accuse the Stephen Harper- endorsing Globe of being a worthless Toronto commie rag that is beneath me to read. I admit that I probably spend 20-30 minutes a day on globeandmail.com, to my own great discredit. I feel a bit prouder saying that than I would saying I read the National Inquirer or People, but not by much. The Globe and Mail is, excuse my language, a shitty newspaper that is insulting the intelligence of its readers by asking to charge them. It is undoubtedly the most uncritical, bland, substance-free corporate mouthpiece newspaper in Canada. This will not end well for the Globe. It’s readers will agree it’s entertaining at times. Nice diversion to waste time with at work. And yes, they do have pretty catchy headlines. But why would a newspaper that doesn’t actually report anything feel entitled to charge for its services?
You know that big, beefy front page section of the Globe filled with articles on politics, world news, and current affairs? Look where the articles come from: Reuters, Canadian Press, Agence France Presse, Associated Press. Anything but actual stories by reporters. On a given day’s important news story, most times the Globe doesn’t report anything! The Globe website does exactly what free news sources like the Metro and the Huffington Post do, which is aggregate the wire services and let their readers read them for free.
Why anyone still pays $2 for a physical Globe newspaper is thus a mystery. But some people prefer the paper format. I get that. What I don’t get is, if you are reading it online, why would you pay for content that you can get for free in all these other places?
There are some things exclusive to the Globe. Because no actual newspaper reporting is done at the paper, most people read it for the editorial content. And entertaining as that may be, editorial content does not take the hard skills of investigative reporting and fact finding that journalism does. We know that John Ibbitson, Lawrence Martin and Jeffrey Simpson are very knowledgable about federal politics, and that the people on the Toronto politics and Ontario politics beats (Gee and Radwanski) know their stuff about City Hall and Queen’s Park, but they’re not reporting news. They are basically writing opinion pieces. Even if their pieces are well-written, the substance of them is armchair quarterbacking. In other words, the Globe’s battalion of columnists is essentially a pool of glorified, overpaid bloggers.
Sure, these guys may occasionally shift in their chair to phone somebody important for a quote to put in their piece, but they only get this access because of the (former) reputation and prestige of their employer that they’ve built their careers on. Most of the time they don’t bother. Someone at the Globe who is always sure to validate her idiotic opinions with a phone call to a professor in the States or two, on the other hand, is the pseudo-intellectual claptrap writer Margaret Wente. Does the Globe think its online readers are ready to type a sixteen digit credit card number to read an otherwise ignorant ninny like her?
It’s not all dreck. Report on Business is, of course, a good business section. And there’s no denying that Shoalts, Mirtle, and Brunt over in the one page sports section are well-versed in their hockey stuff. But nowhere is the Globe more offensive, more pathetic, and more insipid than in its Leisure/Life/Entertainment content. These glossy sections are filled with nothing but inane, condescending, snooty bourgeois crap about red wine, granite countertops, helicopter parenting, latest health craze pumping in the anti-oxidant/gluten-free type vein, and 2012 Subaru WRXs, to note a few subjects they’ve dealt with. In other words, sections written by people who couldn’t live anywhere but midtown Toronto for people who live in mid-town Toronto. Yeah – nice 186 year old national newspaper you got there.
At least at the Post they have some columnists like Coyne/Ivison who are willing, even with their right leanings, to take the Harper government to task on occasion. At the Globe, Jane Taber brings about as much reporting acumen to covering Parliament Hill as Ben Mulroney does to covering celebs on Etalk! Daily. At least at the Star breaks actual stories sometimes, despite its often whiny and badly written editorials. The Globe, meanwhile, provided most of their analysis of the ORNGE fiasco based on the reporting done by the Star. And yet it was the Globe, this Canadian newspaper equivalent of the Slice TV channel, that decided it deserved your money for reading its online content first. I guess their corporate strategy is based on the saying “A fool and his money are soon parted”
PS – As blog dogs have already astutely noted, there actually is no 10-20 article limit on sites that already charge for their articles (that can actually justify it) like the Wall Street Journal and NY Times. Once you’ve reached your limit, just access the title of the article through a google search. Looks like I’ll be torturing myself with Wente for yet another day after all