Ain’t Nothing Free.
I was 20 years old when the LA Times plucked me out of relative obscurity after I won a couple of awards in the annual CPOY contest. Happily, I left the serenity of Lawrence, KS to join the staff in LA as a summer photography intern.
Three months evaporated overnight. One year later I would return to Kansas, but not before having experienced a mind expanding journey in which I photographed victims of the Hillside Strangler, Iranian riots, the poverty of Watts and several Hollywood icons.
The battle for editorial space has always been contentious, with ads dictating the size of the daily news hole. A weird and complicated marriage, each has always needed the other to publish what was originally intended as a public service. Anyone who has ever worked in journalism will attest to the constant conflict between selling ads to corporations (and government) and reporting on those same institutions. Generating revenue is a necessary evil in journalism and has always been somewhat akin to walking a tightrope.
As we bear witness to the the daily dismantling of our editorial institutions so vital to any democracy, it gives one pause to ask, at what cost to our future are we willing to sit on our hands, doing nothing?
However well intentioned general advocacy and public information bloggers may be, very few have the financial resources, time and staff to conduct responsible daily reporting, let alone the more involved aspects of in-depth investigative journalism.
So why are newspapers and magazines giving away their content online for free? Can media truly bank on a solid revenue stream being generated by hits on banner ads? It’s no wonder many newspapers and magazines have gone out of business over the past few years. The time has come for all online media to charge for their valuable information and imagery.
I did not understand as a 20 year old what the passage of time has made more evident. The responsibility of staying informed comes at a price. If we are unwilling to pay for vetted information, then perhaps we are already well on the road to: “A Brave New World.”
A cynic might wonder if that’s just the way corporate America wants it to be?