22 Jan. 2020
Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media studies professor at the University of Virginia, writing on the Guardian about the awful Bret Stephens’ column published the other day on the New York Times, and the backlash that followed:
Potentially effective boycotts are focused, local, disciplined, and have specific, articulated goals and demands. They must bring public shame and measurable financial harm to a firm. A few people tweeting “I’m going to stop subscribing to the Times because of Bret Stephens” does not rise to the level of successful social movements or tactics.
I agree with Vaidhyanathan on the fact that such boycotts are pretty much ineffective, and the latest Times’ financial results are here to indicate that. I unsubscribed at least twice from the New York Times in recent years, mostly because of Bret Stephens, and many others did too. The result: Stephens remains a paid employee of the New York Times, and manages to publish more garbage into the world, under the respected NYT banner.
What Vaidhyanathan misses though, it that the money I don’t give to the Times, I can give to another publication, that, in my eyes, deserves it more. So, to me, he is missing something when he says:
We need quality journalism, expensive investigations, and bright commentary more than ever. The Times, for all its flaws, overwhelmingly delivers all of these things. The Times has serious lapses in judgment and reporting — like any publication, including The Guardian — but we should not wish for a day when The New York Times does not exist.
A fake boycott of the Times would be meaningless at best, counterproductive at worst.
When I unsubscribe from the New York Times, I am not doing it to hurt them, I am not doing it in a way of saying “I wish they won’t exist anymore”, I do it to redirect my subscription money to another publication. The day this new publication starts to have a “serious laps in judgement and reporting”, then I will do the same.
I don’t believe this is “meaningless” move for the other publication getting a new subscriber from the Times repeated failures.
The money I save doesn’t stay in my wallet: I’d rather see this amount of money go to another publication, like the Guardian, the Correspondent, Quartz, the Information, Mediapart, BuzzFeed News, etc.
At the end of the day, Journalism receives the same amount of money from me, it’s just different people’s salaries at the end, different decisions taken, and I feel better about myself. The last part may very well be what defines “money well spent.”