Fake News Prompts Oakland Libraries to Offer Free New York Times Subscriptions - NBC Bay Area
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Fake News Prompts Oakland Libraries to Offer Free New York Times Subscriptions

The new subscription does not include the Times’ crossword puzzle.

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    Courtesy Oakland Library
    Oakland Main Library Supervisor Mana Tominaga reads the New York Times online.

    With fake news grabbing international headlines, the librarians in Oakland, Calif. want to put a kibosh on the lies.

    So they recently negotiated a deal with the New York Times to offer library patrons at 18 of its libraries free, unlimited access to the paper of record, according to Main Library Supervisor Mana Tominaga. The program launched in late November, a couple weeks after Donald Trump was elected president and Buzzfeed, the New York Times, the Washington Post and others began reporting that fake news websites might have swayed voters.

    “We’ve always wanted to get this,” Tominaga said Tuesday. “But timing-wise, this fell into place.” She said that the issue of fake news and “post truth” were the backdrops of the conversation the librarians had with their “electronic resources team.”

    Before, anyone could get up to 10 free New York Times’ articles, or they could use the library’s subscription database to access a limited number of articles. But before now, a particular vendor would choose the stories patrons would be able to read, which stuck to mostly the major news of the day, Tominaga said. This subscription offers native access to all of New York Times’ content, without hitting a paywall.

    Now, under this new scenario, patrons have full access to the Times, and can search to their hearts’ delight and read whatever they want for free. In addition the libraries have limited numbers of 72-hour passes that can be used outside of the library.

    Oakland libraries negotiated a deal that will cost $5,000 a year out of an annual operating budget of $26 million – about $1.8 million of which is spent on books, videos and other materials, public records show.

    Oakland libraries aren’t the first to buy unlimited Times’ subscriptions. The Los Angeles Public Library system began offering the service to their patrons in August. But that was before the election. The New York Times did not immediately respond to inquiries seeking how many libraries bought the unlimited access post-election and post-fake news revelations.

    At the end of November, CNBC reported that the New York Times subscription growth soared tenfold, adding 132,000, after Trump's win.

    The library system doesn’t know how many patrons are actually are reading the paper yet online, the data hasn’t yet been crunched.

    There is one bit of bad news in all this: The new subscription does not include the Times’ crossword puzzle.

    More information on how to access the Times can be found here.

    Contact Lisa Fernandez at lisa.fernandez@nbcuni.com or 408-432-4758. Follow on Twitter at @ljfernandez