Posted tagged ‘New York Times’

New York Times gives editorial attention to English tuition fees

December 12, 2010

An editorial in Friday’s New York Times took a closer look at the new framework of funding and tuition fees in England. While the writer condemned the violence that has taken place on the margins of student protests, the key point of the editorial was that the new framework is ‘bad public policy, both myopic and unfair’. The key reasons given for this judgement were that the new policy has stripped out too much public funding in what the paper calls ‘arbitrary spending cuts’, and that some (particularly the less well off) will find the prospect of relatively high debts on graduation too daunting and may drift away from higher education.

Interestingly, the need for a contribution by students to the cost of their teaching is no longer a major controversial issue in England, though the amount of such a contribution is; but for most the acceptance of a contribution is still predicated on the assumption that the state will pay a significant proportion. The Browne proposals, as amended and adopted this past week by the British parliament, envisage a very significant withdrawal by the state from this role of funder.

Perhaps most dangerous of all for Britain is the conclusion suggested by the New York Times:

‘Britain’s crisis-swollen budget deficits, like America’s, need to be brought down as the economy recovers. The cutting must be done wisely, protecting investments in the economic future, like education. The sacrifices must be equitably shared. By any of those terms, this new policy is an utter failure.’

The British government will need to work very hard to ensure that its new policy is not seen internationally largely as a plan to disinvest in higher education. Economic growth and new investment may depend on it.

The news, for a price

July 3, 2010

From yesterday the English newspapers The Times and The Sunday Times have restricted full access to their news websites to paying subscribers – what is now known as putting up a ‘paywall’. In doing so they have departed from the industry’s currently normal practice of offering online news content free of charge. They are not the first to do this – I remember that the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post required payment for access to some news content from the late 1990s; but the Times is no doubt the most prominent paper to require payment, and this move represents a deliberate calculation by Rupert Murdoch that readers will accept the change and that newspaper proprietors will be able, as a result, to avoid major financial losses as readers migrate from hard copy to online versions. Some others are following suit, such as the New York Times (though in their case only frequent readers will be charged).

I can’t really claim to be a judge of all this, but I think he’s got it wrong. People who get newspapers in hard copy tend to have significant brand loyalty – i.e. they buy the Times (if that’s what they get) because they like what it offers and because they are confident about the news coverage. I don’t think the same applies to online users – they move about between media sites and get what they want often on the back of online searches. I very much doubt whether many of them would subscribe, because no matter how many follow Murdoch’s lead there will always be plenty of free content elsewhere. Therefore, I am not inclined to believe that the business model for online news coverage is subscription – I think it’s advertising, alongside payments for special services such as archive searches.

Of course, many newspapers have found the new online world difficult, and a few have gone out of business or moved to online versions only as the number of subscribers for printed copies diminished. Other publishers who have from the start focused solely on the internet have begun to make an impact (such as the Huffington Post). It will be interesting to observe how newspaper publishing changes in the digital age. But my own hunch is that it won’t follow the trend that Murdoch is suggesting would be best. I may of course be wrong.

Helping in a crisis

January 17, 2010

As I was searching the archives of the New York Times I came across an item published in 1905 which, even today, can teach an important lesson: do not check the fuel tank in your car with the help of a lighted match. According to the article, a New York man who had just bought a new car and who was taking it for a drive with his wife and sister-in-law became worried that there might be a fuel leak; he stopped and decided to check out the tank with the help of some light from a match, causing a major explosion in which, thankfully, nobody was seriously hurt.

But actually, amusing though all of this is, what really caught my eye in the piece was the following:

‘The noise of the explosion caused a crowd to gather quickly. Several men came from a hotel armed with hand grenades, and they were thrown upon the blazing automobile, but without effect.’

Hang on a minute. These men happened to be in a nearby hotel and came out with hand grenades? And they threw these on the car, in order to help? For those of you who want to avoid this location, just in case local habits haven’t changed, this was between Flushing and Jackson Avenue. If you have to go past there, keep driving, and for heaven’s sake don’t stop near any hotel.

Newspapers online

February 4, 2009

As far as I can recall, the first newspaper I ever read online was the Irish Times, and this was some time in the mid-1990s. At the time I was living and working in the United Kingdom, and having instant access to the news from Ireland was very attractive. By today’s standards the whole thing was quite basic, and I believe I am right in my recollection that what you could read was not the whole paper, but just selections from it. But it was a kind of revolution nonetheless.

Today I happened to come across the youtube item – which you can see here – that shows a much older attempt to take a newspaper to remote readers on their computer screens, in 1981. I confess that at the time I wouldn’t have had any idea what ‘online’ even meant, much less have direct experience of it. And if you see the video clip, with the really old phone modem (which I do recall seeing in someone else’s office), you might wonder whether the effort (and cost, as is explained) would have been worth it.

For me, the availability of online newspapers has never seemed a substitute for the paper version: putting my laptop on the breakfast table so that I can read the paper doesn’t seem a good idea. But it is nevertheless extremely valuable. Today I was able to read not just the Irish papers (the Irish Times and the Irish Independent), but also the New York Times and the Frankfurter Rundschau. So I am glad that this facility exists, and hope that I shall always be able to read my primary newspapers on paper, and a wide selection from around the world online.