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The Wayward Newspaper

I like the newspaper. I get a variety of information; I can turn the page back and forth whenever I want without worrying about the info disappearing off the page for some reason. I can compare articles side-by-side; I can see a spread of similar articles all at once. There’s just something practical about getting my news from something I can actually hold in my hands. And it’s a bonus when I don’t have dancing and/or flashing advertisements distracting me from reading the words.

I agree that newspapers dropped the ball regarding getting people to pay for articles on their Web sites. We should be paying for the content. It’s not free to get the hard copy so why make it free online? But given the current choice between paying and not paying – yeah, people are just going to read the news online. Going from not paying to paying online is obviously going to be a hard transition. I don’t think Walter Isaacson’s micro-payments for reading articles is the way to go – and I don’t even know how much a micro-payment would be. Would they vary between newspapers? If I was presented with the a web page that asked me to pay before continuing on to the article, I’d probably decide not read it unless I absolutely needed it for something. It just seems like a very limiting concept to feel you have to be selective about what you want to read because you want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

I wouldn’t mind paying for an online subscription in the same manner as paying for a hard copy subscription (or you can pay a subscription rate that gets you access to multiple papers or papers of your choice). Once you pay, you get access to the site. It’d save on paper and would save the company the cost of printing and delivering (or give us a choice?). All newspapers would have to do this though or the concept won’t work. But it’s better than deconstructing the newspaper as the commentators in the NY Times article about the battle plans for papers suggest. After reading the article, it felt like news subjects would get scattered all over the place with everyone specializing in something. And this means I’ll have to work harder at trying to track down the best place to read said subject (politics, science, local, etc.) and take more time to consume it, which is something I don’t have a lot of right now.

It would be advantageous for newspapers to figure out what they can offer that people can’t get elsewhere – or offer better – as a little extra incentive. I think investigative journalism is definitely an aspect. It’s sad that this is the first thing that’s been cut at most papers (because it costs a lot of money, I know). It’s odd, but nice though at this particular time, that news Web sites consisting of laid off reporters are popping up all over. It’s ironic that the Web site can pay for reporters based on donations and grants, but the big companies can’t manage it.

Our subscription to the Star Tribune was canceled a couple weeks ago because others in the household decided the subscription rate was too high. It’s making me see the paper more fondly. When I see it on the table, I want to read it. I’m having trouble reminding myself to go online.

Spot Us though, while a nice idea, has drawbacks. I’m not sure I want to give editorial power to the public. Finding stories and figuring out if they are worth pursing is included in reporters’ training. In the traditional role, reporters are supposed to find out what I should know about. Now the reporters will be relying on the public to figure this out. Since stories are only pursued with the money, there will be discrimination between the interests of those who can afford to pay and those who can’t. All issues should have equal power or how can those problems ever be fixed if the public isn’t made aware of them? That’s what journalists do. It’s worth trying though. I am a little doubtful about getting people to pay. The site would probably have to convince them that the results of the story would affect them in some way. Or will there be aggressive tactics taking place to raise the money? Like spamming people asking for donations. Or will it just fall to the wayside because of all the other information out there that’s still free?