Sunday, March 1, 2020


People seem to be taking more of an interest in local news these days. I know this because I am seeing a steady stream of people complaining that they can’t read HoCo Times/Baltimore Sun articles without having a subscription.

“It just isn’t fair!”

Do you think a well-informed community is a public good? Or, at least, the opportunity to become well-informed? Should the access to local news be a right?

It seems that people feel that reading the news should be as easy as going to the library and checking out a book. When they learn they have to pay to read the news, they are affronted. They suggest that it’s some kind of money making scam.

The library system is supported by our tax dollars because we have decided that a free library system is a public good. That is why you can use any of their services for free. A newspaper is a business and they require money to cover their operating expenses. Their reporters need salaries to survive, just like you do.

Do you think that being able to read high quality news coverage is something you are entitled to for free? How would that work, exactly? Remember, the library isn’t free. You just don’t pay at the point of service. So, if we decided that news was a public good, and supported it with tax dollars, it still wouldn’t be free. The money would still have to come from somewhere.

But there’s a huge difference between a library and a newspaper. It is vitally important that journalists are separate from the powers that be, in order to maintain independence. Would you really want a newspaper funded by government? Wouldn’t you be concerned that those in power could exert influence over what news you got to see? “A free press” doesn’t mean without cost. It means independent.

We can’t have it both ways.

High quality, professional journalism is not going to run hot and cold out of your tap whenever you feel the need. You have to pay for it. It’s not a free gift you are entitled to. It’s an investment we all need to make.

Post Script: you can read daily newspapers for free at your local public library.

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