Dateline: Wall Street Journal, October 8,2010.
If Schools Were Like ‘American Idol’ . . .
BY RUPERT MURDOCH
Over the past few years, I have often complained about a hidebound culture that prevents many newspapers from responding to the challenges of new technology. There is, however, another hidebound American institution that is also finding it difficult to respond to new challenges: our big-city schools.
Is that so? Rupert Murdoch’s op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal is apparently his prescription for improving America’s ailing schools. Unfortunately, he has locked up his own opinion behind a paywall that prevents anyone who has not subscribed to his service from reading it. All you get is two paragraphs that contribute nothing to the public discourse on education.
The irony is that while he is complaining about a hidebound culture, he is simultaneously demonstrating it. The concept of erecting paywalls to secure content online is firmly rooted in the past. Modern media theory recognizes that certain types of information cannot be corralled and apportioned for fees. That is particularly true for news which no entity can own.
What Murdoch has succeeded in proving here is that his paywall not only fails to produce revenue, it suppresses the information he intends to distribute. And he ties it to the success of his own American Idol, a television program that, unlike his newspapers, can be received entirely free of charge. The result of this illogic is that he is making himself less prosperous and less influential at the same time. And he is doing nothing to help our educational system or the young people who rely upon it. Nice work, Rupert.