In The News

In the age of ‘free’ content … you get what you pay for

BOYNE city gazette joint editorial

BY CHRIS FAULKNOR & BENJAMIN J. GOHS

You may have noticed our brand new mobile-friendly website is now up and running.

You may have also noticed that we charge for access to many articles on our website—something we’ve been doing for years—and, at first, some of you might find that upsetting since so much online content is “free.”

After all, it’s your news, and why should anyone have to pay for access to information?

Why should you have to pay to know what is going on with your city commission or to read about the playground in Veteran’s Park?

They are taxpayer-funded elections, so why in the hell is the Boyne City Gazette charging you to view the results?

Our knee-jerk response is simple: it takes a lot of man-hours to find, sort, compile and create this much information each week.

In order to devote our work days (seven days-a-week except at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s) to producing this newspaper, we need to be able to make money to support ourselves and our families.

But that is what leads us to the other question (some people ask), and one that is far more alarming: Why should you pay for a newspaper or news website when you can go to a blog or, better yet, Facebook, and read someone else’s take for free?

Well, our answer begins with a story about President Obama.

President Obama was planning to travel to India, a trip that, on average, would cost around $5 million per day based on current figures.

A website in India quoted a member of their government claiming—without citing a legitimate source—that the trip would cost $200 million per day.

The Drudge Report then posted a link to the story. Rush Limbaugh then ran with the figure, adding 507 rooms at the Taj Mahal and 40 airplanes. Also without legitimate sources cited.

Fox News Channel then quoted the same figure, adding 34 warships … amounting to 14 percent of the United States Navy.

And it all started from a blog—that got it completely wrong—over in India.

A vindictive 12-year-old boy could start a blog.

Heck, with free templates and software these days, he could have it looking like a professional news source before lunchtime.

One click and his news story is on Facebook, and the dumbing down of the citizenry begins.

Why should we be paying for our news?

Because professional journalists do things that amateur bloggers and other “citizen journalists” can’t or won’t.

Professional journalists get their own news, do their own research, and figure out the real facts.

That’s why, when the stories began on Boyne City’s water fluoridation, our story on the issue covered every aspect of the topic and took up more than a full page in print—far more in-depth than any other news media coverage of the issue.

It was so well reported that the City of Boyne City kept it on file to inform citizens looking to better understand the issue.

And why do we need to dig?

Because a well-informed electorate is the difference between knowledgeable people making decisions about their government and people pointing to the prettiest photo on the page and saying “I like that one best!”

We charge for our newspaper because it will give you more information than any other about the issues that matter to you.

We charge advertisers to appear in our newspaper, because they are appearing in a product that stands for truth, information, and general excellence.

We even charge for you to read our stories online because they take work to put together.

They take hours of research, interviews, and sifting to distinguish fact from fiction.

We know you might think it inconvenient to pay a buck to read about the playground or a governmental body which may not be acting in your best interest, but next time you come across a free blog with “news” on it or see something “interesting” on someone’s Facebook feed, remember that you get what you pay for.

We regret that we—unlike restaurateurs, lawyers, plumbers, doctors, mechanics, and others—have to explain why we charge for our product.

But, that is the scary new world we live in.

A glut of low-quality and misleading information on the World Wide Web (think cats wearing funny hats or un-sourced allegations against a public official) has convinced some people that vital and genuine news should cost the same as your brother-in-law’s opinions on why Funyuns are the greatest snack ever made.

Then there are the sites which produce outright lies under the guise of satire, but exist only to misinform.

To those of you who do value independent news operations like ours, we thank you for your support.

We will continue to work hard 359-days-a-year to keep you informed about your community.

Remember, paper subscribers can get free access to www.boynegazette.com.

Just call Chris at 582-2799 and he will get you started.

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