Posted at 7:28 am on Sunday, August 21, 2022
Reading other newspapers these days is difficult. I have been reading many newspapers for over 60 years. Before the Internet, the American press bought exchange papers that arrived by mail. The internet made it possible to read them online.
Now, even that is becoming difficult. Here’s what you get on many of the local and national newspaper websites:
“This content is only available to subscribers. Get unlimited digital access. $1 for 6 months.”
I was able to read a story on the Guardian website but it said I had read 5 articles in the last year and I went on to explain that it is a reader funded newspaper and at the end it said “Support us today for only $1 Thanks.”
The Washington Post let me read a story and said on the second try: “FREE 4-week trial. Election coverage you want. The clarity you need. Cancel anytime.”
I received two paragraphs about a story about the Inflation Reduction Act on the Wall Street Journal website and the message said, “Continue reading your article with a WSJ membership. Special offer. $8 a month.”
Stories are available on The Advocate of Baton Rouge website, but reading the newspaper page by page online for more extensive coverage costs $9.99 a month. It has national coverage and investigative capabilities and is a major sports newspaper.
Friends often send me links to stories they think I might like, but some of them are hard to read.
OK, what’s the problem?
Lynn Hohensee sent me a story written by Cory Myers, news director of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, that explains it well.
Myers said in the past 18 months, South Dakota has lost 17 newspapers. He added that it is a pattern across the country. The news industry has lost more than 28,000 jobs since 2008, he said, “and more than 1,800 communities have lost their local newspapers since 2004.”
I recently tried to read a story on the Lafayette Daily Advertiser website that had the message “$1 for 6 months” but couldn’t. When I typed the title of the story into the Google website, the story came up. It was on Yahoo with a message at the bottom saying the story had originally appeared in The Daily Advertiser of Lafayette.
That, my friends, is the problem.
Myers said, “A big part of the problem is that two tech giants, Google and Facebook, have a monopoly on online news and advertising, denying newspapers the revenue they deserve. The same goes for local stations.”
Tech giants distribute news content provided by newspapers, which boosts their advertising revenue. Myers said they have made a business decision to pay publishers little or nothing for their journalism, “in contrast to the corporate practice of compensating music publishers and other creators.”
A 2019 story in The Salt Lake Tribune said Congress was considering legislation “to allow media outlets to work with search engines like Google and social media providers to recoup some of the profits from their content to try to ensure I know newsrooms don’t empty. or closed altogether.”
The same story said the News Media Alliance estimated that Google alone took in $4.7 billion in ad revenue in 2018 “from content from news publishers.”
Google disputed that figure, saying the company actually helps media outlets by pushing readers.
The Journalism Competency and Preservation Act grew out of that 2019 discussion, but it’s still in Congress. It would allow a temporary antitrust exemption to allow news organizations to negotiate with Google and Facebook to ensure fair compensation for the newspapers they produce.
The Mankato (Minn.) Free Press in an Aug. 5 editorial urged passage of the legislation. He said weeklies and small papers are often the only source of local news.
“When they close, there’s usually no one watching town halls, county councils, school boards and law enforcement,” the editorial said.
Another idea floating around Congress is the establishment of temporary tax credits for media outlets that hire or retain local journalists. It would certainly give newspapers an incentive to continue their operations.
Unfortunately, the odds of getting the current Congress to help newspapers appear slim. So newspapers turn to readers, and some to donors, to help them survive.
Those newspapers that survive are also becoming better and more efficient because they know that getting help from Congress is difficult in these times.
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