I just saw this on Twitter: "One suggestion for cash-strapped newspapers: stop paying for opinions. There's plenty of good free stuff floating around."
Guy has a point. Simultaneously, news came this week that the New York Times Company has but $34 million left in the bank. Industry watchers have even suggested that the company might shutter the Boston Herald in an attempt to save some operating costs. That would definitely work, but I think I have a better idea: Get rid of your paid opinionmakers.
Paul Krugman is a Nobel Laureate in Economics. He has several bestsellers that have made it into multiple editions. The man's an economic genius. That said, why is the Times paying for his opinion when the "open source" version is available for free? Dr. Duncan Black (aka Atrios) has a Ph.D in Economics from Brown University. He has worked at the London School of Economics, the Université catholique de Louvain, the University of California, Irvine, and, most recently, Bryn Mawr College. He is now a Senior Fellow at the media research group Media Matters for America. That's some street cred. The man knows what he is talking about, and he gives it all away for free, via his own weblog.
Now don't get me wrong. I love Krugman as much as the next Americano-drinking liberal fingers-crossed New Yorker who spends his off weeks in California, but I'd rather the Times resume publication of the weekend City section than employ him and other columnists to tell me things I (normally) already agree with.
Further, is Ms. Dowd's fixation on Mrs. Obama's arms worth whatever crazy sum the paper is paying her? It could have saved itself a week's wage and simply linked Perez Hilton.
In the end, it is silly that we need "learned and articulate" people to tell us what to think. It is even sillier to think that we have to pay them to tell us what they are thinking. People with valid opinions exist outside of journalism's bubble. They are called "humans." Better yet, readers, stop waiting for people to tell you what to think! (How's that for meta-criticism? Pretty good, right?)
As the newspaper business withers away, I can't help but think that it isn't doing all it can to save itself. But that's just my opinion.
Follow Richard Laermer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/laermer