Everyone has the list: the list of what we can and can not live without. And in these days of $4 gas (it's nearing $5 already where I live in Southern California, by the way), we're all dusting off these lists to see where we can cut costs.

I recently discovered an obvious category I can cut out of my monthly nut: My newspaper subscriptions.

Why should I pay for any newspaper I can read entirely online for free? I'm already paying the phone company for high-speed internet, which enables me to read everything online in the first place. This is like paying twice.
For example: the Los Angeles Times charges $2.80 a week for a six-month subscription, and yet it's all there online (and sadly, the once mighty-LA Times is fast becoming a shrug-and-miss.) If I don't bother with a paper subscription anymore, I no longer have to wonder about mysteriously missing papers. No more being charged for three years of subscription fees in advance (as happened to my neighbor), no more lugging out heavy recycling bins full of a paper I never even got to.

I say this without glee. I have two journalism degrees, and grew up reading three papers, the morning LA Times the afternoon Herald Examiner, and the Torrance Daily Breeze. I believe in newspapers. And yet, in the last several years I found myself getting all of my news online, and never even bothering to open the wet plastic bag my paper arrived in (when it arrived at all). Indeed, in the internet age, it's just plain silly to wait for yesterday's news tomorrow.

When the New York Times decided last year to open itself up to free online readership, my relationship with my newspaper changed for good. Now I can get all the news I need, from the Paper of Record, free, any time of day or night. Certain premium content is still made available only to subscribers, but not the main news. If Robert Murdoch would ever make up his mind about opening the online Wall Street Journal to free readership, I'd have it made, even though I subscribe to the WSJ online for work and so can write off the expense.

Truth be told, most any content can eventually be found for free online these days. If people are talking about it, it's on someone's blog. If a particularly compelling piece shows up behind the subscription firewall of the WSJ, it's out on the financial blogs within the hour. The same goes for any insightful commentary by a Times Op-ed writer. Patience will ultimately pay off for you.

So the writing then, is on the wall. Even for die-hard ink-stained wretches like myself, the newspaper era is over. And I'm not even bringing up the carbon footprint issue.

By canceling my subscriptions, I can also save for my twice a month splurge of spending $5 for the Sunday New York Times print edition, just for the pleasure of spending all day laying around drinking coffee and reading the Wedding section and Book Review. I want to save cash, sure. But that's a guilty I'm not prepared to give up. Yet.

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