Saturday in the mail we received a rather perplexing notice: a bill for our subscription to the Columbia Flier. It was indeed perplexing because a) we hadn't initiated a subscription b) we thought the paper was free and c) it was addressed to a Tim McCready. There is no Tim McCready at our address.
For many years a pile of Fliers has been dumped off at our community mailboxes each Thursday--about three or four, I'd guess. If you wanted one, you took one. Then, several weeks ago, we started getting ours delivered right to our front door. And then--bingo!--a bill.
I already pay a monthly fee to get digital access to the Sun and the local Howard County Times coverage. Why would I pay additionally for a paper copy of the Flier? Which I thought was free? I joined a conversation on the topic on Facebook. Someone remarked, "I got that bill awhile back. I ignored it, and the paper still keeps on coming."
Is this a scam? Is some third party trying to make money off of our free community newspaper? Or is it a rather sad attempt by the Flier to solicit donations to a financially strapped publication?
It's just weird.
We really need a local newspaper. I'd like to see more news, more local coverage. And I can see where the Flier needs more money than just advertising to make that happen. Print advertising isn't what it used to be. But billing some people and not other people for what has traditionally been a free paper looks unprofessional and haphazard.
It would apparently cost us $19.54 for a yearly subscription. Why don't they just have a fund drive? Twenty dollars to help support a struggling local institution is certainly reasonable. Then, those who can afford it can chip in. I'm guessing that some folks would be willing to give more than that.
But if you're going to change a free paper into a subscription one I'd like to know more about it first. Here's an idea: maybe someone could write an article about it for the paper?