Today, there are a lot of options to gather news for free. In the Netherlands there are multiple websites who offer you news for free. At the same time, there’s also a group of people who use social media as their news platform, another form of free news. There is no such things as free news, because journalism is a profession. When news is free, there are a lot of downsides to this. Today I want to tell you more about why I think we should pay for journalism.
I think this problem of free news is three-sided. It has to do with fake news, ads and a fair wage. However, I see the phenomenon of something being free more around me. It’s normalized. Other examples other than news are porn or social platforms like Facebook. I’d say that something is always wrong when a private business offers something for free. I mean, we live in a capitalist system. If the government would do so, like free housing or food for those in need, it’s a a different story. But news is a private business. The companies who make the news are there to make money.
Maybe this is something people don’t realize: journalism is a profession. People study to be a journalist, it takes years. This also means there are rules to the profession. You can’t just say anything. If you use numbers or anything else, you have to name where you got them from. Fake news is not tolerated in official news sites. Not in the Netherlands at least, since the government made laws. I think this is a good thing, because then you know you can trust the official news sites. My point is, journalists work for news articles, just like everybody else works in their profession. We have to pay for their work.
However, even when you only read news from a paid platform, this does not always guarantee that the company pays their workers a just living wage. In the Netherlands a lot of journalists are freelance workers. This means they don’t built a pension via their employer and have to arrange this themselves. This also causes instability. Freelancers have to insure themselves for when they’re sick and other unexpected situations. However, news platforms don’t always pay these freelancers enough for all that. 52% of freelance journalists in the Netherlands can’t or can barely make a living. OneWorld produced a list of most news platforms and how much they pay their freelancers.
So, paying a platform does not always guarantee a fair living wage either. But you can research the platform and make the right choice. But the most important thing (and back to my point), it is always better than not paying journalists. And that is essentially what you’re doing when you consume free news.
Then there’s the fake news. But this only happens on the internet on unofficial sites. Especially social media. If you use Instagram or Facebook as a news site this has consequences. You read fake news. We all know that this can have massive consequences, like it did when the Capitol was stormed in 2021 in the United States. Fake news makes people extremely hostile because it usually puts one group of people in a bad daylight.
Fake news is popular because it’s almost always extreme. Sites which produce fake news make their articles extreme to catch your attention. Facebook spreads this fake news because it keeps visitors on their app/website for a longer period. If you’re on the platform longer, they have more data on your behaviour and so, more to sell. The more data they sell the more money they make. This makes corporations like Meta extremely powerful, leaving a small group of people to have a lot of power. However, I personally would like power divided in a fair way.
This bring me to the next thing: ads. If you don’t pay for free news, the site either sells your data and makes money from that or they earn money by the ads on the website. Usually it’s both. However, I think all of us would be better off in a world without ads. If ads are the source of income, they become the most important thing. That’s why the news articles on that website have to be topical, shocking and sensational. The more shocking, the longer you’ll stay on the platform, the more ads you see. This way the news get very negative. That’s also one reason why I write my monthly positive news flashes. With topical or shocking news, people lose trust in the world and other people. That’s the last thing we want, since science proves that the world is getting a better place every day.
Another problem with ads being the source if income is that it stimulates insecurity and consumerism. Ads are fake and therefore make people feel bad about themselves. It has been proven that the more people are exposed to ads, the worse they feel about themselves. I don’t think that’s something we want for society. Ads also stimulate consumerism because we then want to fix ourselves. We buy that anti-aging cream, since we were encouraged to hate our wrinkles. But the ads makes us want physical stuff too. The latest phone or tv, more clothing because it makes us feel like we never have enough, etc. I think we should just pay for the news articles instead of having it for free and then being exposed to these ads every single day.
These were the reasons why I think we should pay for journalism. But there’s also another I would like to highlight here. I don’t think we should follow the news. That’s because I don’t believe in topical news about the rush of the day. I believe in journalism that gives you long articles about structural phenomena. Deep journalism. Giving time to journalists to really dive into a subject. No news article about a murder that was committed somewhere in the Netherlands today, but an in-depth article about the structural crime numbers (and how they’re decreasing) and what structural solutions actually work to help prevent murder. The news of today will be forgotten soon, but structural news is important.
That’s why I would never recommend anyone to get a newspaper membership. However, in the title of this blog I am saying: we should pay for journalism. But I mean we should pay for this deep journalism I just mentioned. At the moment, there are three companies in the Netherlands who offer this right now (that I know of at least). Those are: OneWorld, De Correspondent and Follow The Money. So yes, I also have membership. I am a member of OneWorld. I would like to be a member of all three but I don’t have the time to read all those articles, that’s why I chose one. The most inclusive one if you’d ask me.
I believe there is room in the world for this structural and deep journalism. And if people really want the shocking, topical and sensational that’s fine too. But the thing is: we should pay for journalism. And of course then there’s also people like me, who are a blogger. I would argue that if you’d want to make this your profession, people should pay for it too. Every profession should be paid for. I have to be honest: I don’t like it when people make blogging their profession by offering ads. That has the same disadvantages that I mentioned before. For me blogging is a hobby. But if I’d ever want to make my profession out of it I’d make it a membership.
Another option is a pay what you like concept. This way all my blogs will be available to everyone and the people who have the resources can pay what they want. I might do in the future too. Just to have the option for people to support me, even though it’s a hobby. But I would never resort to ads or paid partnerships.
Need more inspiration on the topic of fake news? Watch The Great Hack or The Social Dilemma.
Do you know any more reasons why we should pay for journalism?