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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Seattle Times Tries Charging Its Reporters to Access Their Own Website

Posted by on Thu, May 9, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Yesterday I got a tip that Seattle Times employees—including the reporters—were expected to pony up for their own website's paywall (at a discounted rate, but pay nonetheless). Is that a real thing? As a reporter, I frequently have to search our website's online archives for linking, providing context, or developing backfill on articles. It didn't seem possible that a newspaper would actually charge its reporters for an essential function of their jobs. That would be like installing payphones on everyone's desk and pocketing the money. So I wrote to Seattle Times executive editor David Boardman:

Hi, David. I just heard that Seattle Times reporters must pay to pass the newspaper's paywall (at a reduced rate).

Is this accurate? If so, why is that the policy? What's the rate they pay? Does that complicate their own reporting? Like, how do reporters gather backfill from the paper's archives without paying? Have there been problems (reporters losing a password and/or having trouble looking at the website)? Have there been complaints?

Thanks!

Dominic Holden
News Editor, The Stranger

Boardman replied this morning:

Hi, Dominic.

Like most businesses that expect their employees to use the company's products, we have long encouraged our employees to have home subscriptions to the printed Seattle Times and have provided significant discounts for them to do so. Some only subscribe for the days they are not normally at work, where they get free copies.

When we went to digital subscriptions, those who already had print subscriptions at home — even if only for the Sunday paper — received full, free access. Those who didn't were offered deeply discounted print/digital or digital-only subscriptions.

Because full digital access is necessary for everyone in the newsroom, I offered all employees the opportunity to opt out of the subscription requirement if they felt they could not do it for either financial or philosophical reasons, and that we would pay for their subscription. I'm pleased to say that of nearly 200 newsroom employees, only seven took that option. So it's clearly not a big deal here. Everyone has full access and has since the digital-subscription program began.

David

Boardman is the best thing at that newspaper—and it sucks that his staff is asked to pay to do their jobs. It's nice of Boardman to provide a plan for opting out, but he shouldn't have to provide that plan. Moreover, reporters shouldn't feel like they're drawing unwanted attention by asking to opt out.

 

Comments (43) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
delirian 1
Yes, feel free to opt out. By the way, did you know that we may be having another round of layoffs?
Posted by delirian on May 9, 2013 at 11:03 AM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 2
Absurd, but it's all so much rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. I wonder what's going to come after the Times.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn http://youtu.be/zu-akdyxpUc on May 9, 2013 at 11:03 AM · Report this
sirkowski 3
Desperate move.
Posted by sirkowski http://www.missdynamite.com on May 9, 2013 at 11:06 AM · Report this
4
WOW!!! That is truly amazing. Absurd. Thanks for reporting on this!
Posted by scratchmaster joe on May 9, 2013 at 11:08 AM · Report this
5
gross.
Posted by Adrian Ryan on May 9, 2013 at 11:14 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 6
Seriously, it's like watching the Titanic go down ...
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on May 9, 2013 at 11:20 AM · Report this
7
Nice way to juice their subscription stats there, however slightly.
Posted by mayberrymachiavelli on May 9, 2013 at 11:21 AM · Report this
9
@8, you realize this is a blog, right?

Anywho, the Seattle Times is really so desperate that it needs digital subscriptions from its own reporters?

Time to put that horse out of its misery.
Posted by GermanSausage on May 9, 2013 at 11:24 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 10
DUM.

It reminds me of my own company, though. We can't get free access to our parent subsidiary's products without begging and pleading, and sometimes not even then.
Posted by keshmeshi on May 9, 2013 at 11:27 AM · Report this
Ya Sure Ya Betcha 11
A bigger scandal is the wage theft of the Stranger. The names of thirteen, yes thirteen, unpaid interns appear on the masthead of this week's edition.
Posted by Ya Sure Ya Betcha on May 9, 2013 at 11:28 AM · Report this
DOUG. 12
I used to work at the Seattle Times. I sat in a meeting once with one of the Blethen progeny who proudly stated, "I cancelled my Times subscription because I can read it for free online."

That's your future, Frank.
Posted by DOUG. http://www.dougsvotersguide.com on May 9, 2013 at 11:28 AM · Report this
13
What kind of unwanted attention did the old timers at the Stranger get for helping a certain competitor (not the weekly)? Oh, that's right, they would be fired. What kind of unwanted attention would any staffer there get for joining a unions? Probabaly fired, and probabaly a lecture from Goldy.
Posted by hmmmmm on May 9, 2013 at 11:29 AM · Report this
deadrose 15
I notice he said newsroom employees, not reporters or journalists. I'd really like to see a more definitive figure that didn't include janitorial staff, phone staffers, and so on.
Posted by deadrose on May 9, 2013 at 11:33 AM · Report this
Cracker Jack 16
Are we to believe that the Times doesn't have some kind of document management system from which reporters could access prior material to do their work? If that's true, then the Times should go down like the aforementioned Titanic just for being so behind the times (as it were).

I can see them charging (a reduced rate) for home delivery or the digital equivalent when they're not on the Times network. I mean, when I worked at Little Caesars you got to eat the team pie for free, but you had to pay to take one home!
Posted by Cracker Jack on May 9, 2013 at 11:34 AM · Report this
seatackled 17
And the seven employees who opted out are now under suspicion of tipping Dominic off.

One thing unclear here: Do they have full access when they're in the at work, or do they need to pay even there?
Posted by seatackled on May 9, 2013 at 11:39 AM · Report this
18
If any paper isn't storing their articles written in a centralized, easily accessible digital location (probably a mapped network drive) then I am just completely dumbfounded.
Posted by No Excuses on May 9, 2013 at 11:43 AM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 19
I rather fear Tim Keck and I may be the only Stranger readers who bothered to subscribe to the Times online. Anyone else?
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on May 9, 2013 at 11:48 AM · Report this
20
@19, I just use my browser's incognito mode.

Why would I pay somebody to put cookies on my computer?
Posted by GermanSausage on May 9, 2013 at 11:56 AM · Report this
Cornichon 21
Meanwhile, in Noo Yawk, the Weekly's old owner, Village Voice, is in the throes of upheaval as well: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/10/busine…
Posted by Cornichon http://cornichon.org on May 9, 2013 at 11:56 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 22
This is exactly like hiring someone to work in your company and then telling them they have to BYOD their own computer, phone line, printer, toner cartridges, chair and desk. Wow.

"Welcome aboard, this empty spot on the carpet with a few cables sticking out of the wall is your desk. If you'd like cubicle walls, you can order them out of pocket from this catalog. If you'd like tape to measure what to order, we can sell you a roll of blue painter's tape and a rule for $2 each. Bathroom is down the hall. You'll need exact change for paper towels and toilet paper. It's $0.25 per flush."
Posted by Joe Szilagyi http://twitter.com/joeszi on May 9, 2013 at 11:58 AM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 23
@20, I believe Tim's view is the same as mine, that we're not paying because we're too dumb to avoid the paywall, but because we're okay with helping pay the salaries of what newsroom staff they have left.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on May 9, 2013 at 12:10 PM · Report this
24
In Firefox:

Right click the paywall. Select "Inspect Element (Q)". Scroll up to "div class="hard_paywall"". Right click on it. Select Delete Node. Scroll up. Find the "<body class=" part. Select the words in quotes that come after "class" and remove it. (Don't feel bad for the Times in doing this, as they already had no class to begin with.)

You're welcome.
Posted by K on May 9, 2013 at 12:13 PM · Report this
25
@23 you're paying the digital subscription so that the reporters can use their salaries to pay for digital subscriptions?

How noble.
Posted by GermanSausage on May 9, 2013 at 12:16 PM · Report this
26
They pay their interns though! Har har.
Posted by Guest Author on May 9, 2013 at 12:18 PM · Report this
27
You couldn't script this stuff any better.
Posted by Timothy http://www.moreperfect.org on May 9, 2013 at 12:31 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 28
@5, noble, that's me. Let me show you my coat of arms, I have it here somewhere.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on May 9, 2013 at 12:32 PM · Report this
:^i!e 29
why would the times have a backlog of articles just for reporters to access and reference, when it's already online? that would be inefficient poor business. however this is an absurd policy. as a writer you have to do research to be effective and relevant. it's expected that writers will reference past articles in the paper - it's called follow-up. so, yeah, this is absoeffenlutely insane. just saying... opt out on principle.
Posted by :^i!e on May 9, 2013 at 12:45 PM · Report this
30
First - when did interns ever get paid? That's sort of the point - you do crap work at a publication while you're in school for college credit, right? That's a little like all of these j-school two week old graduates refusing paid freelance work because they're holding out for the 60k a year staff reporter job at the Trib. Sorry, kid. There are 100 seasoned reporters who want that job, too.

Second, if you don't think their content is worth it, don't read it. If you read it, pay for it. Going to ridiculous lengths to avoid a paywall that prevents newspapers from being able to pay their staff... and then commenting on an article about how the paper has to try and make revenue by charging their staff... you're just a f*cking tool dude.
Posted by newsguy75 on May 9, 2013 at 12:45 PM · Report this
31
Seems like The Stranger's tag line, "Seattle's Only Newspaper," might be coming true sooner than we thought.
Posted by DBBird on May 9, 2013 at 12:45 PM · Report this
32
First - when did interns ever get paid? That's sort of the point - you do crap work at a publication while you're in school for college credit, right? You knew when you applied for the internship it wasn't paid. You knew when you interviewed for the internship that it wasn't paid. You knew when you accepted the internship that it wasn't paid. So now that you've got it, you're going to bitch about it? That's a little like all of these j-school two week old graduates refusing paid freelance work because they're holding out for the 60k a year staff reporter job at the Trib. Sorry, kid. There are 100 seasoned reporters who want that job, too.

Second, if you don't think their content is worth it, don't read it. If you read it, pay for it. Going to ridiculous lengths to avoid a paywall that prevents newspapers from being able to pay their staff... and then commenting on an article about how the paper has to try and make revenue by charging their staff... you're just a f*cking tool dude.
Posted by newsguy75 on May 9, 2013 at 12:49 PM · Report this
33
I'm no fan of the Suburban Times, but this doesn't register as any big deal to me. How is it any different than Nordstom employees being being provided an employee discount because they are expected to dress appropriately?
Posted by I Got Nuthin' on May 9, 2013 at 1:36 PM · Report this
34
@30, look... times are changing.

Motion detective video games, Taco Bell prices are through the roof, holographic concerts and print circulation is down.

Recently, there have been new campaigns for paywalls. It is a trend to charge the users for content.

In terms of my opinion toward the subject, I don’t care. Things that don’t affect me or have no bearing on my well-being are not on my list of priorities. However, it is becoming hard to remain neutral in the midst of such a controversial issue.
Posted by Actionsquid on May 9, 2013 at 1:52 PM · Report this
35
Journalists have full access to all story archives, etc., while on the corporate network (including remote access).

@15: Uh, janitors are not newsroom employees. By definition, newsroom employees gather and produce news. Not sure how hard that is to understand.
Posted by bigyaz on May 9, 2013 at 2:00 PM · Report this
36
@32: It was a bad attempt to poke fun, sheesh. Obviously there's no comparison. There's nothing else I'd rather be doing in Seattle, pay or no pay. I love what I'm doing here.
Posted by Guest Author on May 9, 2013 at 2:03 PM · Report this
37
@36: Do you get college credit? If so, great. If not, the Stranger is breaking the law and taking advantage of you.

Posted by bigyaz on May 9, 2013 at 2:26 PM · Report this
38
Funny, the Times runs an editorial today calling for cycle tracks. You think the Stranger would mention it? No way. That is the last thing they would want Slog readers to know about the Times. They only want you to know the most negative stuff. If the Times ran an editorial against cycle tracks, you can bet it would be all over Slog.
Posted by ian on May 9, 2013 at 2:27 PM · Report this
43
You can get to the Seattle Times archives for FREE with a Seattle Library card. Even if you don't live in the city you can get a Seattle Library card. Just go to the library's website: www.spl.org
and click on the Library Collection tab at the top of the page. Scroll down to Magazines and Newspapers and then Select the Seattle Times archive. You then have to enter your library card number and PIN. Voila! Free access thanks to the Seattle Public Library!
Posted by Moderately conservative liberal on May 9, 2013 at 4:49 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 46
"Like most businesses that expect their employees to use the company's products"

I don't think he understands the concept of dogfooding. Successful companies encourage you to USE their products. They don't force you to buy them at full price.
Posted by undead ayn rand on May 9, 2013 at 8:45 PM · Report this
47
The Seattle Times is a shit newspaper. Before I unsubscribed from their RSS feed I did read their on line content, but 90% of Seattle Times' content is now AP articles. Meh, I'll find Seattle news somewhere else.
Posted by Weekilter on May 9, 2013 at 9:20 PM · Report this
Knat 48
Jeez. Thank FSM that this isn't more prevalent. Considering my current employer's name is on damn near every software I use to do my job (as well as much of the hardware), I'd be working half my day just to be able to afford to do my job, if they had a similar backwards policy.
Posted by Knat on May 10, 2013 at 1:41 AM · Report this
51
What does he mean they will 'pay for it'? Pay for what, that something they used to give out for free that advertisers paid for? Which reminds me then, so if you subscribe to their paywall, does that mean it's completely ad free? Or does it mean two groups (consumer and advertisers) are paying for a service twice? What a joke about them offering to let employees opt out. Yeah you want to make that round of layoffs or ever get promoted? Pay up! What a horrible place to work. After their paywall went up I just switched to local TV news web sites. I don't miss it.
Posted by hifiandrew on May 11, 2013 at 11:32 AM · Report this
52
@22 Welcome to Microsoft contracting, bring your own computer that meets our corp requirements, and also you have to pay rent on your desk space. Oh you want to work remotely then, nope this position must be performed on site.
Posted by MyNameWhere? on May 11, 2013 at 11:49 AM · Report this
53
@52 MS is evil, but every Seattleite in the tech industry seems determined to kiss as much of its ass as possible*. Six months on, six months off? What an honor! And they seem to think Microsoft inventions are commonplace when in reality they are only common to Microsofties.

*Except for the Apple fanboygirls, who have zero moral superiority over the former.
Posted by K on May 14, 2013 at 11:04 AM · Report this

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