Pay For News?

Today, our local newspaper, The Record, announced it would begin charging for on-line access.record-for-a-dollar2 There was quite a stir on Twitter after the announcement. Some on the local Twitter scene thought that this would spell the end for the Record. And it seems as if some would be happy to see the Record fail.

I’m going to go out on a limb and, much to the chagrin of some of my friends, agree with the decision to start charging. While I recognize that this presents a unique opportunity for bloggers, podcasters and other media junkies to share their work I think we need to help local newspapers survive. Local blogger, Bill Ries-Knight said it best today:

“I'm just sayin... Who will be the gatherer of news if the Local Newspaper is gone? Who'll be there @ 2am when the bullets have been flying?”@Steelhoof

In September, I sat down with Michael Fitzgerald, metro columnist for the Record and, of course, the subject of blogging and the internet came up. He made a compelling case why a community needs a professional news organization. He spoke about a local blogger named Chocolate who anonymously blogged about issues related to Stockton Unified School District. Chocolate turned out to be the former principle of Stagg High School.

“She’s concealing the fact that she’s a disgruntled ex-employee. Now, some of her information was accurate and some of her opinions are valid... but wouldn’t you like to know that this person has an axe to grind... Finally, the newsroom is full of trained, talented, seasoned professionals. They filter out a lot of BS. The internet just puts it out there.” - Michael Fitzgerald

The “news” may be free, but the reporting of it shouldn’t be. Like a retail transaction, value should be traded for value. I am happy to pay for the talents of the people that work at the Record.

This does seem like a slippery slope. Hopefully the Record understands the potential impact of charging for online content. Of course, this could go terribly wrong. Subscribers could run for the hills and the Record could be left with fewer eyeballs to attract fewer advertisers with tightening budgets. But then again, it could turn out just fine.

Is there room in this community for the likes of Reclaiming the TitleRodsRantsBrewery33 and Podcast Stockton? Absolutely! And we need more voices. We also need newspapers, radio and TV stations... with the resources to help us tell the stories. As I strive to become more involved with telling the stories of Stockton I hope organizations like the Record will continue to be here. We need Michael Fitzgerald, Daniel Thigpen, Christian Burkin, David Siders, Tara Cuslidge and Ian Hill.

“... do you seriously think that many people will pay for online paper? Especially enough to save a sinking ship...”@BREWERY33

Will I pay for online Recordnet access? Yes.

Is it absurd?

Well, perhaps to some it is. I remember when I was a child and the concept of paying for a bottle of water was absurd. As of a few years ago, Americans were spending $15 Billion a year on bottled water. Don’t judge me for giving $40 a year to the Record.