What my local newspaper can provide online: Not much.
I subscribe to the local paper, in paper format, supporting a local industry of loggers, paper mills, ink manufacturers, advertisers, newspaper staff, delivery people, gas stations and coffee shops. Now the local paper wants me to pay extra for the privilege of reading their web site and I am honestly hard pressed to figure out why I would want to do that. I’m already spending several hundred dollars a year for the paper and its delivery. In half- and full-page ads in the paper, the paper suggests I will gain access to:
- breaking news: I have the computer and radio on all day (I’m also a supporting member of my local NPR station). I see the headlines and follow important stories when they occur, from the primary sources.
- Sports: sorry, don’t care.
- Local news: the value of my local paper is local journalism on local issues. I want and pay for the efforts of my local ink-stained wretches who personally interview the local people making news, take photos and write editorials from the local point of view.
- Weather: just re-feeding the nationally-supplied weather forecasts.
- TV listings: already available online in many formats, and on the cable if I cared to look.
What I pay for my local paper is the first draft of history. Local news, the facts, names, dates, places and time. Most importantly: why? I pay for a journalist to analyze all these factoids, easily found for free on the internet, and tell me why. Why did it happen? Why should I care? What is the significance of this in the big scheme of things? Is the local protest against a new public works project a NIMBY or a valid concern? Is the latest councilman gaffe an oopsie or a major ethical lapse? This is what I pay for: a professional journalist to think, weigh the issues, and present an unbiased analysis of the issues. The rest is just filler.