Why the news should be “free”

In today’s world of Internet media or publishing, a great debate is being…well, debated on whether or not news outlets should charge for news.

Business wise, charging would be incredibly stupid. You’d lose more than half of your readers in my opinion, which makes the site less marketable for advertising dollars and so on.

Still, as a journalist who reports for the community I was born in, I feel “free news” is a moral issue. A community deserves to know about what it does, what it spends money on and what it stands for.

Here’s my two points in this argument.

  • Most newspaper subscriptions are generally between $10-14 a month. What do they offer that anyone else can’t get without going on their own? Anyone can watch a Chiefs game in person or on TV. Anyone can spend $1 or $2 on gas going to board meetings and observing what they do. Why charge for something anyone can do? It’s morally wrong.
  • Newspapers are among the biggest advocates (and rightfully so) of a “free and open” society and government. Doesn’t a pay-wall morally go against what a newspaper advocates?

Again, business wise charging for news online is downright stupid.

But I think there’s an argument of ethics and morality to it as well, one which isn’t explored too much when this debate comes up.

Part of me thinks the only chance newspapers have of regaining any traction in the new media era (it’s a small chance, too) is if the newspaper is printed as part of a not-for-profit type of arrangement.

That means each house receives a free newspaper in a city that it covers. It’s bold, but it’s different.

Again, it’s a bit of a risk.

But it’s better than nickle-and-diming current subscribers.

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Filed under Media, Newspapers

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