Here’s something I’ve been wondering. Now that we have blogs and the internet, why do high ranking government officials – Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers today in the Washington Post, or Peter Orszag in the Financial Times for example – publish op-eds behind paywalls?
Why should people be forced to pay to hear read important policy discussions? Doesn’t that exclude a lot of people from participating in the discourse? Even if the policy discussions aren’t behind paywalls, other papers don’t reprint the remarks in full, at least hardly ever, so the distribution is still limited.
When, say, the president wants to say something, why publish it on the op-ed pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, etc.? Why not simply post it on the White House web site, and make it absolutely clear that anyone who wants to can republish it in its entirety. Instead of one paper publishing the remarks, wouldn’t they likely appear in several if not all major papers, or at least be discussed in some fashion, and wouldn’t the remarks also be reprinted in local papers and in many blogs? Wouldn’t a lot more people be able to read the discussion, and, in fact, wouldn’t it be likely that a lot more people would read it?
So why do they still use the old model? Is it because the general public isn’t the real target of these communications, or have I missed something essential?
I think that anybody who wants to read these remarks ought to be able to do so, so the remarks ought to be made available in a centralized, easy to find, free, convenient place. The White House web site, or government web sites more generally, seem to be a natural place to centralize communication now that technology has changed.