Paying for the news you use

    For years I’ve been a home subscriber to the Philadelphia Daily News, Philadelphia Inquirer, and New York Times. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point I came to view those subscriptions as something like my membership support of public radio.

    It’s something I do not because I have to, but because I believe in the product, and understand somebody has to pay for it.


    If you’re a public radio listener, you’re familiar with the message we politely deliver on the air three times a year: If you use the service all the time and choose not to pay for it, you’re freeloading.

    I now view my friends who consume all kinds of news on the internet without paying for any of it the same way – they’re freeloaders.

    If you really, truly can’t afford it, fine. But most of us can come up with something (there are cheaper digital subscriptions), and if we all continue to expect a quality product without paying for it, we will soon get what we’re paying for.

    Wait a minute, you might say, WHYY and Newsworks are non-profits. They’re set up to deliver a community service and rely on community support.

    True, but can you think of anything that’s been more profit-less in the past ten years than the Inquirer and Daily News?

    And sure, you get ticked off at stuff you read in the paper sometimes, or stuff you don’t read that ought to be there.

    I know. I got complaints, too.

    But nothing’s perfect, and until we get a viable system for funding all the journalism a free society needs, I say a newspaper subscription your damn civic duty.


    I bring this up today because I read last week that the Capitol Ideas blog of the Allentown Morning Call’s John Micek is about to go behind a pay wall.

    Micek brings knowledge, insight, humor, and even great music videos to thousands of people every day who are interested in the people’s business in the state capitol.

    Capitol Ideas has been voted the best political blog in Pennsylvania by the Washington Post and PoliticsPa. Here’s some Micek stuff I recommended in April.

    The Morning Call has announced that starting October 10th, you’ll get ten free web page views of their paper a month, and after that, you’ll need a digital subscription.

    I understand this. The New York Times is doing the same thing. The freeloaders don’t get the full buffet anymore.

    But Micek’s readers are mostly not in the Allentown area. They’re a community of people across Pennsylvania who want to understand what’s happening in the state capitol.

    I fear most won’t subscribe, and the reach of this very talented and hardworking journalist will be reduced.

    And I’ll be cut off, after spending years supporting three newspapers and my public radio and TV station. I feel I’ve anted up, and ought not to lose by daily hit of Micek.

    What do we do?

    How about a federation of media outlets that honor the subscriptions of sister organizations? Museums do it. Zoos do it.

    Make it so that once you’ve certified that you’re paying say, 10 or 15 bucks a month, you get add-on subscriptions for free, or for a nominal fee.

    Bundle the stuff, like they do on cable TV, so we can get the fruits of American journalism in abundance.

    Some clever grant-writer should get to work on this.

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