Every year or so for the past twenty-five, I’ve tried to subscribe to the “world’s greatest newspaper” (italics not mine, theirs, but a true description, too).
I’ve taken the “introductory offer” (italics mine) bait every single time, or tried to, and every single time I’ve been spurned: “Same day delivery not available in this Zip Code.”
I don’t know why.
Twenty years ago I could get same-day delivery of the Wall Street Journal (I think an early edition was printed, via satellite, in Charlotte. Maybe not anymore. I haven’t tried lately.) But subscribe to the Journal I did for a while.
It was not the same. Sort of like a bowl of Raisin Bran without the raisins, and, some days, without the milk.
The best the Times could come with is a subscription promising two-day-old delivery by mail. Who wants to read Monday’s news on Wednesday?
I don’t buy day-old bread, or salmon that’s out of date, either.
So, by ‘n by (a favorite phrase from Uncle Remus), here comes the internet, and websites, and such, and I can read, same day, The New York Times to my heart’s content, with no out-of-pocket.
I think they reasoned thusly: they’ll let me read for free if I’ll let them sell my eyeball exposure, and maybe my wallet, to their advertisers. A fair trade. Maybe. Used to be. Not anymore.
The Times has become one of the first major newspapers in the world to go “pay per view” on-line.
Here, in summary, is the deal. If I live in one of the anointed Zip Codes, I can get an all-inclusive (magazine, book review, etc.) seven-day-per week, same-day paper subscription, and full electronic access, for $5.20 per week, or something over $270.00 a year.
Because I am hobbled by Zip Code, I can still read, as of about the first of April, the e-version for $260.00 a year “on any device.”
And, yes, there is a sort of walk-down element here, like drug clinics walk down addicts with methadone. Without doing anything, I can still read twenty articles a month at no charge, a threshold I crossed on April 5. And I can still get the headlines and section teasers without paying. But that’s it. Any more than that, and it’s $5.00 a week.
I don’t use “devices.” I don’t have a cell phone. The only blackberries I’m familiar with come in cobblers. I don’t have an i-Pad (whatever that is). Don’t have a Kindle (though I did look into that-no signal here). I don’t tweet. “Social media” gives me the creeps. I’d rather be dead than be on Face Book.
I’ve decided to resort to theft. They leave me no option. I’ve resolved every day to steal The New York Times.
It’s easier than you might think. I scan the free headlines and section teasers, and when I find an article I want to read, I load the headline into any of the big search engines (Google) and, of course, the full read comes up instantly-and not even a coin slot to drop money in.
Yes, I am conflicted about my behavior in this regard, but I rationalize it, try to wrap it, somehow, in the noble gauze of Thoreau’s disobedience.
All I ever wanted was a same-day copy of this great paper. I have tried to buy that more times than I can count. They won’t sell it to me. I like this Zip Code. I’m not moving.
And, finally-unforgivable insult of all insults-the Times itself has reduced this theft from a felony to a misdemeanor by devaluing the print edition.
If the Times folks say the whole-ball-of-wax signup is $5.20 a week, $5.00 of that being the e-version, then they’re valuing the print version at the differential-$.20 a week, or ten dollars a year. (It’s an outrage. It should be just the opposite.)
I’ll go straight again when they feign to bless the Meadows of Dan Zip Code, 24120. Until then, I’ll do what I’ve been doing-keep pretending the e-version is the print edition-and, if push comes to shove, plead guilty to a misdemeanor.
Of, course, too, if it comes to that, I’ll beg, I mean beg, for mercy.