I rarely re-watch movies. When it comes to movies, I prefer novelty to familiarity. But I did re-watch a movie last night: Spotlight. The 2015 Academy Award winning movie about Boston Globe reporters exposing the child molestation scandal within the Catholic church in the Boston area.*
A number of times during the movie, in regards to the question why no one, including the Boston Globe, hadn’t done more reporting on the story, someone says: “This story needed Spotlight.” Spotlight being the name of a tight-knit group of experienced reporters at the Globe who did long, deep dives into complicated stories. Nobody else had the time, resources and credibility to do report a big story like this.
We, as a society, need more Spotlights, not fewer.** The only way to get that is to support mature journalism with our time and money. It is my sincere hope that Tim Cook and Apple find a way to make a multi-platform news product work. We will see, but I am skeptical.
In the daily linkfests, I highlight items I think are interesting or worthy of note. Sometimes they are from the investment blogosphere, sometimes something from Twitter and often items in the major news sites.
The point of all this is that I have been receiving an increasing number of e-mails from readers that say, usually politely: please stop linking to news sites with a paywall with the FT being the most frequent target. Which must mean these sites are doing a better job of blocking workarounds.
Nobody ever thinks, man I should be able to read every book ever written for free on the Internet. You can go to a public library to read a book, but even the library had to pay for that copy. So why do we think we should be able to read the news for free?
I love the financial blogosphere, but it isn’t set up certain things. Bloggers typically write about topics which they have firsthand experience. They are, by and large, not doing original reporting. Nor should they.
Bill Gross isn’t going to sit down with some random blogger for an interview, but he will talk to the FT. Bloggers can’t take six months to take a look at security practices at Care.com, like Scott Patterson and Kirstin Grind at the WSJ did. Equifax isn’t going to answer questions from a random blogger, but they may make a half-hearted attempt to answer Ron Lieber’s questions.
My colleague, Josh Brown at the Reformed Broker a few months ago described his subscriptions to the major newspapers as “a tax.” Josh writes:
When I look at all the monthly subscriptions I pay, and all the recurring charges, the ones I am most proud of are my subscriptions to newspapers (digital, but nonetheless). I think of them like taxes, doing my part as a citizen to support the free press that holds the nation’s leaders accountable to us. It’s my favorite tax to pay.
I don’t know if tax is the right analogy. But I do wholeheartedly endorse this idea. I subscribe to the WSJ, FT, NYTimes, Washington Post and a handful of local publications. If I could get on-demand access via an Apple News-type product I would pay for that as well.
You have to pick your spots. I recognize that everyone can’t (or won’t) subscribe to all of these publications. I have to make trade-offs as well. I like to unearth the best reads of the day for Abnormal Returns readers and some of them may very be behind a paywall. I am not going to stop linking to Jason Zweig at the WSJ. I am not going to stop linking to Matt Levine at Bloomberg Opinion.***
The Abnormal Returns blog is free. The daily e-mail is free. The RSS feed is free. I have no plans to change what I read or link to. If you don’t like it there are plenty of other free sites on the Internet.
*If goes without saying that this is a wholehearted endorsement of Spotlight.
**Spotlight lives on at the Boston Globe.
***I do not get paid to send people to the major news sites. Nor do I get free or discounted subscriptions. It would make my life easier, if I did.