We’ll get to this answer shortly, as if any American business ever needs to explain why it expects reimbursement for the service, or services, it provides.
Over the course of decades in the business of reporting news, it’s remarkable as I reflect upon the changes we’ve seen in this profession. Over the last few years, though, the changes — none of which have been self-inflicted — have been swift and most remarkable.
Ten years ago, I would not have envisioned a reason to dedicate a column — much less multiple columns — to explaining what it is we do, and why we do it.
Journalism is under fire, and not just major-market newspapers and national outlets. With the explosion of social media, we all come under fire as it’s easier to lash out at that which we do not agree with, often under the cover of anonymity. No longer is debate an option it seems. Those who disagree with us are simply wrong and deserve to be excoriated. Facts are considered inconvenient.
Being a reporter is not glamorous. It’s often not fun. We cover government meetings and explain what those meetings mean for you, and we keep you apprised of what is happening in your local courtrooms, boardrooms and more.
We ask the difficult questions and bring sunlight to issues some would prefer to keep hidden in the shadows. It’s not something that endears us with those we cover, but it’s part of the job and our founders thought it important enough to protect it.
We are, at times, threatened. It’s going to happen when you cover topics that are going to split a hyper-partisan populace, or when you cover the arrest of someone accused of a violent crime.
It’s part of the job, and we’ve always dealt with it.
Today, though, people take exception to the journalist’s desire to be balanced. There is little middle ground.
People expect news to be free, as if professional journalists, editors, composition departments, office staff and the rest of those who work daily to create a newspaper are to do so without pay.
That’s the difference between news you read in a newspaper versus that which you pick up on social media — newspapers have staffs which discuss topics, check sources and ensure a level of fairness, none of which exists in many social media posts.
We routinely get questions as to why we don’t offer free content online (we do, for subscribers and non-subscribers). News is something we work to provide for the community. We pay people to seek out the stories, get the answers and sit with interesting people of the community to attain their stories.
No one goes to the grocery store and expects to take a batch of cookies free of charge. You can’t walk into the local auto parts store and take anything off the shelf and walk out with it because you think it’s not worth paying for.
To get something of quality, you pay for it. Whether it’s 75 cents for a newspaper, $1.80 for a cup of coffee or $85 for a pair of shoes, that money is earned by someone who put the work into crafting the goods you are purchasing.
Still, people expect us to provide our product free of charge.
Rarely do people stand up for news outlets doing their jobs. Few ever explain to people on social media that the person that wrote a story is a paid professional and that is the reason stories and news sites charge for content.
That’s why you are reading this column today.
We will continue to bring you the news of your community, and we will continue to do so with balanced coverage and a commitment to getting it right. If we make a mistake, we will do our best to correct it.
Chris Brady is managing editor at The Standard-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.