By Jim Brown
So now the Harper government’s “help” promised to veterans – $200 million for mental health initiatives – will be doled out over 50 years, not the six years spin doctors originally led the media to believe. That’s on top of the billion dollars plus in lapsed funding siphoned away from Veterans Affairs over the past few years and the recent closure of eight regional veterans’ offices.
Disgraceful, disgusting treatment of our vets by the Conservatives, and, of course, the base remains silent. They seem quite happy to collect a cheque for as much as $2,000 a year under the government’s new income-splitting pledge that will only benefit 15 per cent of taxpayers, the well-to-do and the filthy rich. Hard to believe anyone with even a flicker of compassion for broken human beings would accept all of this just to get a tax break.
But paywalls, as well as well as other strategies to limit access to online content, only smell of desperation.
Newspapers shouldn’t need to charge their print subscribers an extra monthly fee to boost revenues. Isn’t that what clicks are for?
It seems newspapers everywhere have recently reduced their access, forcing readers to “register” and then pay for what they read after a certain number of free articles. More often than not that involves reading the same stories that were in the morning’s paper. Or in the case of community newspapers, days or perhaps even a week earlier.
Something’s not right in the brave new world of digital journalism when fees have to be charged for a service that was previously free. What adds insult to injury for print subscribers and those of us who still buy the ocassional paper off the newsstand is that the paper’s cost has continued to rise while the size of the print edition keeps shrinking.
I count myself lucky to have earned a living over three decades, modest as it was, in print journalism. I can’t see anyone graduating from J-school today lasting even a decade in newsprint.
When I read these smiley face columns from newspaper associations about the rosy future of print journalism all I can think of is: Were buggy makers this delusional when a car manufacturer opened next door? Did they share the same misguided belief all they had to do was tweak their product and their brand? Perhaps install a cigarette lighter, AM-FM radio system, or power windows?
Again, I repeat – if newspapers aren’t swirling around the toilet, why are they limiting access to their online content? Do subscriber fees actually bring in enough money to offset the loss in good will among loyal readers who would be tempted to never again click on the paper’s digital edition?
It’s almost as if they are waving a red flag at regular print subscribers who have been with them through good and bad times, decade after decade, from kids to grey-haired, paunchy, stoop-shouldered seniors.
But how much original content is in digital versions of print newspapers on the Island and elsewhere? I’m going to say, with confidence, very little.
Now there are other newspapers, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times come to mind, that are essential reading for many Canadians. I can’t imagine being a professional trader, for instance, and not have a quick glance through the WSJ before setting up for a day’s trades. Or, for that matter, someone who relies on their investments for retirement income.
However, the exceptions are few and far between.
But shouldn’t we sign up, just for breaking news? Well, most communities have access to local CBC outlets and their content is constantly refreshed and they have the necessary journalistic resources to go after news everyone wants to read about – sensational court cases, fires, storms, murders, car accidents.
And there are no restrictions to access, and, more importantly, no frustrating paywalls.
Really, on many days small newspapers deliver less news than the pages of many Facebook users. If you have more than 100 friends I can guarantee you there are least three or four who are news junkies and regularly share photos, articles, columns and editorials from local and national news outlets on their newsfeeds. All at no charge.
You don’t even have to crack a newspaper most days unless you want to check death notices and even the funeral homes are providing better and more up to date content. Classifieds? Kajiji is often the go-to source. And they don’t charge for small ads.
I’ve always believed if you want to charge people for a service or a product you have to at least make an effort to provide something of value in return, not rehashed, recycled articles from Canadian Press or other wire services that have been on many social media platforms hours or even days earlier.