Should news be free?

DKS editors

The publisher of The New York Times has said that at some point in the future, the organization would cease its printed edition. If that happens, the revenue model for would necessarily change. That prompts the question: Should news — should information — be free?

News orgs must pay the bills

Journalism is at a crossroads. Charging for online news is a scary idea, and usually ‘mass exodus’ comes to mind whenever the suggestion comes up.

Sure, if eventually decides to charge for the use of the site, it will probably see a decline in readership, which is not uncommon when change comes to any news website.

But the Times cannot sustain its current newsroom operating cost with online advertising revenue alone. Massive cuts would have to be made, leaving it without many of the resources and personnel that make the newspaper great. The product would suffer if they chose not to charge for it.

However, if they can put up a successful pay wall, other companies will follow.

Newspapers have charged for information for hundreds of years, and the democracy has endured. Only within the last few years has the idea sprung up that all news should be free.

Like any other product, the price of news should be based on quality. If New York Times readers want that quality of work, they’re going to have to pay for it. If readers want news to be free, then they will have to accept the fact that John Smith’s blog isn’t going to be accurate.

The point is people will not be happy when online news is no longer free. But like airline fees, they will have to learn to adapt. We can’t afford to work for free.

At the end of the day, anyone can ask questions. The information is free for those who have the time to seek it, but those who put the legwork into compiling that information have the right to make a living, just like everyone else.

Free flow of ideas is paramount

The old ways of media consumption are dead.

We’re at a point in the advancement of technology that information is always readily accessible, highly personalized and absolutely free of charge. And it’s what consumers expect.

When the publisher of The New York Times, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., announced that the paper will go out of print at some point in the future, it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to anyone. (Obviously, it’s a damn shame that a paper with such a strong tradition in print would cease to publish.)

What would be the most disappointing effect of the change is the possibility that would become a pay site.

Granted, journalism must remain a profitable industry. If news organizations don’t make money, their quality will suffer, and the democracy will suffer when papers fail.

More important to the democracy, however, is the exchange of ideas. The idea that news and information should be accessible to everyone — including those who can’t afford it — is not only the modern expectation; it’s an ideal that makes sense for a new era of information technology.

Newspapers must adapt to new demands, which will ultimately, as The New York Times announcement suggests, necessitate a revamping of the revenue model.

Easier said than done. But unfortunately — or rather, for the good of the consumer — it must be done. And fast.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.