News is a commodity, not a right, should be treated as such

Published 4:00 am Saturday, March 30, 2019

Regardless of the story or its content, there remains one constant on our social media pages when posting news— why must people respond to a survey, or, heaven forbid, actually pay money to access news on the LDN website?

These comments usually create discussion wherein people share their dissatisfaction with that reality, then make it clear they will simply read the story somewhere else.

This viewpoint is a reflection of the way news consumption has changed in recent years. So much information can be gathered for free online from a massive number of avenues, the world has simply become accustomed to accessing information for free. That is not inherently bad, but it has allowed the fundamental understanding of news delivery to shift from a commodity to an intrinsic right.

Allow me to explain.

If I call a repair man to my house for a service, I pay him. I pay the City of LaGrange for trash pick-up, water, electricity and gas services. When I go to a store, I pay for the products I take off the shelf. When I go to the doctor, I have to pay him or her to fix whatever ailment I may have.

If I utilize a service, I pay for it. News is no different.

We often hear that stories we report are posted to multiple news outlets and read the same, thus there is no value in paying for access. However, the stories you find in The LaGrange Daily News often dig deeper to tell you how that story affects this community. Simply put, we cultivate the type of information you aren’t going to find from an outside agency reporting to a large audience.

This is not meant to disparage television stations. They do good work, but they don’t cover any of the LaGrange City Council meetings, Troup County Commission meetings, Troup County School Board meetings, West Point City Council meetings, Hogansville City Council meetings, or our local elections.

That reality makes what we do extra important, as we often are the only media outlet at these meetings, where decisions are made that affect the lives of everyone in the community.

But, gathering all that information and deciphering it is not done simply out of the goodness of our hearts. Like everyone else, we don’t want to work for free. Subscriptions serve as an important revenue stream for the newspaper, ensuring we are able to continue the job we have been tasked with.

Anyone can view four stories per month on our website for free, a luxury we provide the community to allow individuals to stay tangentially connected. Beyond that, we require individuals to pay for a subscription to view more content. Anyone consistently hitting that threshold should purchase a subscription regardless, as it is clear they find value in the product.

Occasionally, like when bad storms roll through, we lift the paywall to allow everyone to view our site at no cost for a particular period of time. After all, we are committed to doing our part to inform the community, especially when the news value is potentially life-saving.

The survey is another small, simple way to generate revenue, ensuring we can continue our work. These generally take less than 20 seconds to complete.

Sometimes we find that people screenshot, or copy and paste articles onto social media. Don’t be that person. It’s like illegally downloading the work of a musician.

The way we consume information has changed and will continue to change. It is the job of the news aggregators, like ourselves, to remain nimble and adaptive enough to provide content our readers care about and will enjoy. However, there is a now a fundamental misunderstanding of how news fits into our lives. It is not an inherent right, it is, like everything else, a commodity.

To those of you reading this, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for supporting local journalism.  Our community, and the world, sorely need it.