Sherrilynne Starkie

Help Save Journalism: Pay for News

By: Sherrilynne Starkie | March 21, 2017 | 

Help Save Journalism: Pay for NewsAs PR professionals, it’s important you pay for news.

No, I don’t mean paying for placements.

I’m talking about making a personal investment in quality journalism.

Otherwise, you risk freeloading yourself out of a career.

How’s this?

Let me explain.

People often refer to PR as an industry.

It’s not.

It’s a profession.

And, practitioners of this profession are part of what is generally referred to as the publishing industry.

An important sector of this industry is news publishing, now commonly referred to as “the media.”

This means the reporters, editors, columnists, advertising strategists, graphic designers, publishers, writers, photographers, videographers, and web developers whose livelihoods depend on a job in the media, are in truth our peers, our colleagues, and our collaborators.

It is with true foreboding that I watch as media jobs continue to decline.

I feel sad for the people who are directly affected, but I also see it as a harbinger of things to come.

Not great things, either.

We need to recognize that if we want our industry (and our careers) to remain viable, we need to participate and support it fully.

That’s why it’s important to pay for news you consume.

A news website subscription often costs less than a cup of coffee a day.

That small investment goes a long way in support of our own ecosystem.

Yet time and time again I meet PR people who never buy a newspaper and don’t own a news website or magazine subscription.

If you aren’t going to pay for news, as a media professional, why would anyone else?

What’s the value of that publication?

When you don’t pay for news, you’re essentially saying the media isn’t worth paying for.

That’s directly at odds with your profession.

Where Are They Getting Their News? How Are They Informed?

When I appeared on the last ever Spin Sucks Inquisition with Gini Dietrich late last year, I said that one of my key issues for 2017 was to get people to pay for news.

We had recorded the session a couple of weeks after the American election when the significant and disturbing influence of free and fake news was just becoming clear.

Putting that result together with the Brexit surprise, I felt alarmed.

I still do.

This trend does not bode well for the future of the media industry (or for that matter democracy itself but that’s an entirely different blog post).

What Happens if You Don’t Pay for News?

Think about it.

As the traditional news media continues its slow demise, journalism jobs continue the downward spiral.

Soon we’ll see content farms and fake news sites, all chasing lucrative clicks and likes, reigning supreme.

Others, those with more nefarious intentions, will fill the gap by providing jaded, cynical, and biased stories and information.

People who are already dependent on social media networks for their news will see an ever-decreasing range of news, views, and opinion.

And they will soon be blind to new ideas and different perspectives.

I know this sounds a bit apocalyptic, but you saw what happened with Brexit and the U.S. votes!

And as communications professionals do we really want to roll up our sleeves and get to work with black hat marketers, con artists, and fraudsters?

I Thought Not

They say when you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.

I don’t want that for you and I certainly don’t want that for me.

The economics of supply and demand always plays out in free markets.

If people want something and are willing to pay for it, some enterprising individual will supply it.

So, it follows that if you demand and pay for news produced by ethical journalists, there will be a news organization out there willing to produce it.

As PR professionals and part of the wonderful, exciting world of publishing it behooves us to set an example.

We need to advocate on behalf of our industry.

The easiest way to start is to put your hand in your pocket.

Demand and support quality journalism.

Don’t settle for less. Pay for your news. #payforyournews.

About Sherrilynne Starkie

Sherrilynne Starkie is the President of Thornley Fallis, a Canadian integrated marketing communications firm. She is also Past President of IABC Ottawa. For more than 20 years, Sherrilynne has been providing communications consulting and services to blue-chip organizations in Britain, Canada and the United States. She focuses on helping clients leverage digital and social media to achieve organizational goals and objectives.

  • Dawn Buford

    I am SOOOO on board with this. If you want quality anything, you have to pay for it. Period. Journalism is no exception. You are paying for the care and attention to detail that goes into making sure you get the real deal, the facts, the truth. FYI – New York Times is offering all their subscription packages for 50% off for one year. I just renewed mine yesterday!

  • Arwen Vant

    Great post, and so true. Lots of change happening in the New Zealand media environment. Consolidation amongst the big players, but new independent news organisations springing up and experimenting with payment models, from corporate sponsorship to crowd funding. Challenging times.

    • Do you pay for your news?

      • Arwen Vant

        Most news organizations are free, a few have pay walls (our consultancy has subscriptions), some new ones are experimenting with corporate sponsorship or patronage models

  • PAY for news? I still recall the struggles to get PR people to READ the news! But I agree.

    • This struggle is real. I should have written please pay for and read the news!

  • This is a very personal post. I have been following this since the early 2000’s when the LA Times started downsizing. There is more to this than just paying. It really needs a historical background.

    Before the Internet most news orgs had monopolies or dualopolies. I moved to LA in 1992. There was one city wide paper the LA Times. If I wanted news I had to buy a paper or wait for a TV news program. If I wanted my home city NY News I had to buy a copy of the NY Times for like $7 at an international news stand and it was 1 day old.

    So in all the big cities wealthy powerful media orgs grew that could afford to pay to have high level journalists all over the world reporting the news.

    But then the net comes and all of a sudden competition. For world news, sports, US news etc now I could read any paper not just my local paper.

    At the same time the biggest marketing fraud in history (banner ads) came about and agencies lied to media orgs that free reading with these ads will equal the same revenue. But it didn’t even come close.

    So the real answer is like before the net people should pick one or two news orgs and pay for their service. But I am not sure that will fix it all. Because prior to the net the advertisers placed print ads knowing many will never be seen (I used to read only sports, comics and business pages) but you paid anyway. So you might pay for an audience of 1 million but only get 100k impressions. Now you can pay for just the pages you are on that are read.

    So I don’t know the full answer but paying as I said two would help. I ponied up last year and now am a @VPRNET sustaining member ($10/month) but if the Trump budget cuts public broadcasting I will double it just to flip the bird at the #%@&#% loser.

    • I agree the issue is much, much bigger and won’t be fixed with paid subscriptions along. But it’s a start. And our profession needs to take a stand. This is a good way to demonstrate it.

  • Edward M. Bury

    I’ve subscribed to the Chicago Tribune for decades. So, I trust that I am doing the right thing.

  • I love my NY Times digital subscription. Their app is a joy to read, and I don’t get woken up at 4 a.m. by someone throwing the newspaper at my apartment door.