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Extra! Read All About It...For Free

In class, we had a great discussion about the changes in traditional journalism, mainly newspaper, how it’s been affected by social media and its future. Our discussion lasted about two hours, so we obviously had a few opinions about it. While this is a loaded topic, I will unpack a few of my thoughts.

The Future of Journalism

Due to declining revenue, newsrooms across the country have been downsizing their operations and staff to save money. Many advertisers who once were the main source of revenue for print newspapers have opted to take their business to a platform with more impressions and greater reach: online.

The emergence of digital technology in news isn’t new, but if not adaptable, it can lead to buy-outs or closures as we have seen across the country. The shift to digital has many implications for the journalism industry with the main one being fewer reporters.

Even as the number of reporters decrease, the number of beats and citizens remain the same, so to make up for the difference, writers and reporters either take on additional beats, or cease covering certain beats. The latter is clearly detrimental to towns across America who rely heavily on local news to stay abreast of what’s going on in their city. So how do we make up for this windfall?

I think newspapers should charge people to access their online content in the same way print newspapers do. Here are my top two reasons why:

  1. We pay a subscription for the physical newspaper to be delivered to our homes, so why not pay for the same content online? Unfortunately, the internet isn’t free. There are costs associated with running a website and its supporting features. Do you prefer to receive daily digests of specific industry news? Those preferences are created in a database that requires monitoring and software updates, which are not free. Although it saves money on paper boys, gasoline and printing, digital content still requires writers who need to be paid for their services.

  2. Cuts Down the Noise. Yes, anything free is great, but how much do you know about the authors of the articles you are reading online? Do they have an agenda? Are they loyal to certain influencers and write about them favorably? Can they be objective and tell both sides of the story? Most importantly, do they adhere to the journalism code of ethics? The average reader gets their news from multiple sources, but sometimes they just want the facts, so paying a small fee for your trusted news shouldn’t be a big deal.

While there are many opinions that go into this argument, one things is for sure, newspapers, while a valuable commodity, need to come up with a viable plan to stay profitable.

Do you currently pay for an online newspaper subscription? Why or why not?

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