Cost vs. Value of Journalism

It is clear that newspapers and other traditionally-analog media outlets are in the middle of a big transition over to mainly digital distribution.  It’s no surprising fact (old news, if you will) that more and more people are going to the internet for their news.  And who can blame them?  The latest news has always been a big selling point, and now we can practically observe the protests in the Middle East in real time.

But the other advantage to internet news?  It’s free.  Or, at least, it has been.  Some newspapers and magazines are once again trying to integrate “pay walls,” the electronic version of a subscription.  Next year, The New York Times will start using a meter system, allowing readers a certain number of “free” articles each month before having to pay.

Before we start cursing those greedy newspaper barons, let’s consider this: most journalists may not make plush wages, but they don’t work pro bono.  As David Firestone, a deputy national news editor at The Times, states:

“As painful as it will be at the beginning, we have to get rid of the notion that high-quality news comes free.”

Think back to the hazy, prehistoric time before the internet: in-depth news wasn’t free.  You bought a newspaper (or maybe got a free one off of a subway seat).  You subscribed to a magazine, or bought it off a newstand.  We all love to save money, but the current model does not seem sustainable.

This won’t mark the end of free information, but is perhaps another step in the evolution of our increasingly connected societies and economies.  Journalism is in the midst of a major transition, but it isn’t going anywhere.  Objective and in-depth information is much too important to our local, national, and global communities.

How much are you willing to pay for high-quality news?



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