Paywall time

There’s a lot to say about paywalls and business models and the future of journalism and the deep questions of whether information really wants to be free or, as I’ve often claimed, stolen, and I can feel the powerful urge to go into a tirade about the decline of old-school journalistic values and Western Civilization in general, but you already know what I think about this. Also, I’m having computer problems. Gremlins.

A small  observation: Many of the people who commented on our story about the Post adopting a paywall seem to view the paper as primarily a producer of opinion journalism. Maybe that’s not the intent of these commenters. But there’s so much focus in Webworld on the opinionators, with a lot of umbrage taken that we publish certain people who produce opinions that certain other people disagree with (please, no one diagram that sentence!).  But the opinions operation is a small part of the newsroom. I wish more people would talk about all the other things we do here. Consider our photography. One of the rewards of working here is that I get to collaborate with brilliant photographers, videographers, graphics artists, etc., who are at the very top of their game, and who make me better as a reporter. True, you can find plenty of photographs on the web, and everyone’s a photographer these days. But trust me: The pros are better. They’re a lot better. They see things the rest of us don’t see. They understand light and shadow and texture and framing. And they’re great reporters, too; they know where the story is.  It’s a great honor to work with the best in the business.

Look at today’s front page: A story from Baghdad; a story from Argentina; a new national poll produced by the Post and ABC News. A tragic local story about the shooting of a teenager. This is journalism that costs a lot to produce; we can’t do it without revenue. The market will determine what our work is worth, and we certainly need to try very hard to produce stories and photos etc. that people will want to pay for. But giving it away for free makes no sense and I’m not sure it ever made sense. Yes, you can find lots of free content on the web — and you generally get what you pay for.

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."
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Joel Achenbach · March 14, 2013