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Fine journalism should be free

Set the scene: you are sitting at your computer, browsing the Los Angeles Times website and soaking in the various articles when suddenly a box appears asking if you want to have an online membership.

Damn, that’s right you hit the allotted limit of articles for that month, which now means you either pay the subscription fee or scrounge around at another news site.

In an article on Feb. 24 it was announced that starting March 5 “the Los Angeles Times will begin charging readers for access to its online news, joining a growing roster of major news organizations looking for a way to offset declines in revenue.”

Those who do not subscribe to the hard copy or online version of the paper would be allowed 15 free articles to view every month, per IP address, until they reached their limit.

Once the limit is reached, users are asked to pay the $3.99 weekly subscription or be shut out from the site until the start of the next calendar month.

With the fluxes in the journalism industry that has been brought on by technological advances and changes in what readers want, it is understandable that newspapers are trying to save their businesses by asking the public to pay for what they use.

However, this dwindling readership will only become more of an issue when those who support the papers are being charged.

On the New York Times website it is posted that “The New York Times charges for digital access so we can continue to invest in quality journalism.”

What these charges may do instead is turn people away from quality journalism that they have to pay for in exchange for less reliable, free sites.

Those who cannot pay, or simply do not want to, will leave these reliable news sources for free media such as what is found on MSN and Yahoo! home pages.

This lowers peoples+ standards of journalism so at one point they will not care about the prestige of the Los Angeles Times or other similar sites because they can get free information elsewhere.

The New York Times policy changed at the beginning of April from 20 free articles each month down to 10. Furthermore, links posted on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites go toward that month’s story count.

Once that limit is hit the reader is asked to subscribe for $8.75 per week, or $5 for tablet apps and $3.75 for smartphone apps.

For many dedicated readers of these various news sites, it is not that they do not want to support the publications, but it is not financially possible at the time.

Rather than ask more from readers the publications could be looking for advertisements as a way to increase revenue.

Rolling Stone Magazine has an online database that provides most of its content to all readers, regardless of membership status.

There is some content that is not available to nonpaid readers, but excerpts are at least given so the reader can decide if they want to find a hardcopy of the article or become a subscriber.

This system works because it does not limit the reader to a set number of articles.

These news publications can also take the route of organizations like PBS and NPR and ask for donations to keep what they have available.

What it comes down to is people are going to get their information by the easiest and quickest methods, which means that those publications not conforming to their readers are only shoveling out more dirt to make room for their coffin.

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