In this month’s issue, the Columbia Journalism Review published an open letter from David Simon, creator of the critically acclaimed HBO series “The Wire,” that calls on Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Katharine Weymouth, editors of The New York Times and The Washington Post respectively, to take a stand for paid content.
Simon, a former reporter for the Baltimore Sun, declares that it is time for newspapers to draw the line and insist that all readers, including those online, pay for the news.
A firm believer in intellectual property rights, Simon argues that “Either you believe that what The New York Times and The Washington Post bring to the table every day has value, or you don’t.” Simon acknowledges that “antitrust considerations prohibit the Times and The Post, not to mention Rupert Murdoch or the other owners, from talking this through and acting in concert. Would that every U.S. newspaper publisher could meet in a bathroom somewhere and talk bluntly for fifteen minutes, this would be a hell of a lot easier.”
Through its five seasons, “The Wire” chronicled corruption within American institutions, including, in the final season, a troubled newspaper (the Baltimore Sun) that fails to cover the citys toughest issues. After the series’ finale, Simon tsk-tsked the journalist community on the Huffington Post for failing to recognize the critique he performed. “I confess I thought that journalism was still self-aware enough to get it, that enough collective consciousness of the craft’s highest calling remained, that reporters still worried about what their newspapers were missing.”