One would think the hottest debate raging inside The New York Times offices these days would have something to do with how news is covered. According to recent published reports, however, a very different topic has dominated conversation.

In fact, this highly divisive issue at the New York Times Co. has been on the table for years. It’s the simple question of whether or not to restrict the Times’ web site to paying customers.

If you’ve used the web in the past 10 years, you probably know the Times makes articles available for free online, even though a chief competitor, The Wall Street Journal, has made quite a bit of money by refusing to do so. Now the Times is considering the Journal’s online model–and if the switch is made, many educators, students, and other researchers stand to lose a valuable free resource. That’s too bad for those web users, but it appears this fundamental shift won’t cause Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. to lose any sleep.

“It gets to the issue of how comfortable are we training a generation of readers to get quality information for free?” Sulzberger told a Reuters reporter. “That is troubling.”

Whether Sulzberger likes it or not, I’m here to say that eSchool News Online is still proud to offer readers high-quality information for free, and we have been doing so for years. But my question to you as readers is whether or not you’re actually aware of this. Just as many Times readers might not visit the site because they believe they already get everything in their daily newspaper, I wonder if ed-tech enthusiasts and school leaders reading this Online Update mistakenly assume that what they’re missing each day on eSchool News Online is already being served to them in the monthly print edition of eSchool News?

While it’s true that eSchool News content can be found on eSchool News Online, there is also plenty of unique, online-only content–and on a day-to-day basis, our web site and print edition really don’t look so similar.

In the past few months, for example, eSchool News Online has added a feature called Ed-Tech Insider, an interactive community of school technology experts who offer valuable advice to those trying to integrate technology into their curricula. While some Ed-Tech Insider content appears each month on this page, this is only a fraction of what is available online. One of our insiders just might have the answers to your key questions already available on the web.

We’ve also added a complete Conference Information Center (CIC) for those readers interested in school technology conferences. In the CIC, you’ll find real-time coverage of major ed-tech events, which is useful whether you happen to be attending them or are kicking yourself for not going. You’ll find schedules, workshop sessions, speaker biographies, and other items updated regularly to reflect new information as it emerges. To top it off, only eSN Online enlists volunteer educators to offer their own views of the event through our Conference Correspondents program.

If you’ve never visited eSN Online–and I’m guessing some of you have not–then this month is a perfect time to do so, particularly for the CIC experience. With both the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) and American Association of School Administrators (AASA) conferences in February, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to witness the dynamic nature of our web coverage.

And did you know that if you like something you read on eSN Online, you can share it with colleagues instantly by using our story-forwarding feature? Tens of thousands of stories were forwarded in 2004, and we recently published links to the 10 most popular. You can see that list–and read all the stories–at www.eschoolnews.org.

In addition to our comprehensive TCEA and AASA coverage in February, eSN Online is adding another entry to its popular Educator’s Resource Center series. The latest topic, titled “Assessment and Achievement,” is made possible with financial support from Software Technology Inc. You’ll learn about software that boosts both math and reading scores–and you’ll even find out how to test your data-driven decision making skills.

So if you thought you weren’t missing anything by getting your ed-tech information from the pages of eSchool News, it’s high time to check out eSchool News Online. If you want the richest experience of the site, be sure to register as a member. Registration is free, of course, and after registering you’ll have access to vast amounts of content you might have missed in print.

Did you get all that? If not, here’s a quick recap: The eSchool News Online site is free, registration is free, and there’s no end to the site’s original, high-quality, online-only information.

Sorry about that, Mr. Sulzberger.