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The New York Times made an announcement last week that may change the face of journalism forever, with the potential to be the first step on the road to recovery… or perhaps ruin. Starting March 28, The Times will impose a fee for all online readers who surpass twenty read articles in a month. Subscriptions will be available for about $15 a month, and would offer unrestricted access to the articles online.

Although this news isn’t exactly taking Concordia’s campus by storm, it’s huge in the world of journalism. A service previously free now comes at a cost. Imagine Facebook charging monthly membership fees, or maybe Twitter charging ten cents per tweet, and that’s about the equivalent for those news-hungry New Yorkers and others across the country who love The Times.

And while Facebook and Twitter charging would result in some major uproar, this development may do so also. People will equate it to Google charging per search or YouTube charging per view. News is free, right? So why should we have to pay to stay updated?

While the vast majority of journalists and avid newspapers would wholeheartedly agree with the statement “knowing the news is a right,” it’s unfortunately not treated that way.

The government doesn’t fund news organizations, which is undoubtedly a good thing, allowing reporters to avoid conflicts of interest and also cutting down on the use of that darn “S-word.” While this is a good thing, it also creates a bit of a dilemma—a human right, to be thoughtfully informed, is reduced to the level of a service, a supply and demand transaction in the same vein as determining which jeans are hot at Vanity this season.

So yes, people will moan about Times web articles not being free anymore. They’ll say it’s a right of theirs to know the news, and they’re right. But the world isn’t set up that way. News organizations need money, so they have to charge. It’s not that they want to—their mission is obviously to inform the public—it’s because they’ll go out of business without doing so. If they didn’t, our government would become the dominant source of information concerning national and international affairs. I can see the headlines now: “Economy is great.” “Iraq: Still Winning, Duh!” “Senate sets new efficiency record!”…And that can’t be good for information.

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