Alan Riquelmy: We’ll pay for it, one way or another
There are two things people complain about, regardless of the city: the paper and the preacher.
I picked up that gem while working for the newspaper in Selma, Alabama. It’s proven true at each of the four papers I’ve worked for since entering this profession.
The preacher regularly gives fodder for grumbles about town. And the paper issues enough copy to get someone — usually plenty of someones — upset on a daily basis.
Of course, what do you expect to come when you write stories about the worst part of people’s lives, or their loved ones’ lives? I hear people say they want to read good news, but those typically aren’t the stories that garner the most online traffic.
It’s the crime, the court trials, and the topics that cause the most conflict: the legalization of marijuana, or a push against wearing masks during a pandemic, that bring people to the paper.
And that brings me to the rub: People want this news, they want to be informed, but many times they don’t want to pay for it.
Here’s another gem: Information wants to be free. Journalism wants to be paid.
How many times have you tried to read an article from a local or national news site and been stymied by a paywall? Did you nod your head in agreement, because you understand that it costs money to provide that content? Or did you curse and move on?
The latter happens plenty. Many of us have become used to the idea of “free” news. It appears in our social media feeds, and comes to us easily on our phones. How many of us think about the need to pay for it?
And how many rail against a paywall on Facebook when they can’t get the content they want without paying for it?
“The Union can go (something something)” — a message I’ve seen on Facebook comments when someone can’t access a product or service without paying for it. A strange belief in itself. Rarely do people question why their power gets cut when they fail to pay for it, or wonder why food isn’t delivered to their door for free.
But for some reason content that requires a media company to pay employees to gather it should be provided gratis. Go figure.
I get it. For decades people casually picked up a newspaper at the coffee shop and read it, tossing it aside when leaving. Now people essentially do the same thing online, except the paper’s contents appear on your screen, wherever you are, at all times.
Those times have changed. And if people want to continue getting news — not propaganda, not outright lies — they must change as well.
If you want quality journalism, you’re going to have to pay for it. An online subscription is a good start. One day I hope there’s a single fee people can pay to access a wide variety of publications, from local news to national, niche articles to stories of worldwide importance. Pick and choose the news you want from reliable sources, all for a reasonable price.
Maybe one day. In the meantime, support the news that enriches your understanding of the community, nation and world with your hard earned dollars. Better yourself and the people around you by filling your head with news, verified by journalists from organizations you trust.
And preach that message that anyone who will listen. Because we’re all going to pay for it if we don’t, one way or another.
Alan Riquelmy is the city editor for The Union. He can be reached at email@example.com or 530-477-4239.
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