12 years and counting

I’ve been a journalist for 12 years. For the first few years these anniversaries helped to remember that I was able to survive in the industry but now, after 12, I’m well and truly part of the industry itself — the thing that others survive — and the observances don’t mean anything as such. This said, my professional clock runs from June 1 from May 31 and the day is when I break up the last 365 days into a neat little block of memories and put it away, with some notes about whether anything was worth remembering.

Last year of course, I joined The Hindu as deputy science editor and began a new chapter in many ways (see here and here). One that I’d like to take note of here is The Hindu’s paywall. As you may know, thehindu.com has soft and hard paywalls. You hit the former when you read 10 free articles; the eleventh will have to be paid for. The latter is the paywall in front of articles that are otherwise not freely available to read. Most articles behind a soft paywall are straight news reports and, of course, The Hindu’s prized editorials. Analyses, commentaries, features, and most explainers are behind the hard paywall.

We all know why these barriers exist: journalism needs to be paid for, and better journalism all the more so. But one straightforward downside is that the contents of articles behind paywalls are rarely, if ever, represented in the public conversations and debates of the day — and I haven’t been able to make my peace with this fact. Yet.

Eight years at The Wire spoilt me for it but the upside was clear: everything from analysis to commentary would be part of the marketplace of ideas. Siddharth Varadarajan was clear The Wire would always be free to read. Of course, The Wire and The Hindu are different beasts and pursuing very different survival strategies, and on the path The Hindu is treading, quite simply forcing people to pay to read has become necessary.

This shift has also forced me to contend with my own writing — mostly explainers, op-eds, and reports of physics research — being confined to a smaller, but paying, subset of The Hindu’s readers rather than all of them as well as to the public at large, which in turn often makes me feel… distance, not readily visible, if at all.

Just one more thing to figure out. 🙂