Up against the wall

Like any other student journalist in Canada, I can spend hours upon hours reading articles on The Globe and Mail’s website, primarily because I have no money to subscribe to a print copy and I like being able to read articles for free.

However, like many of my counterparts, I was hurt and saddened to discover that the Globe will be moving towards an online paywall, charging their readers once they reach a certain number of articles, commencing this coming fall.

Why, Globe and Mail? Why?

Sure, I can go to the National Post or another online source to get my daily dose of news, but with Canada’s largest paper and other publications such as the New York Times moving towards paywalls, this is clearly not a good sign. Not just for news and newspapers, but information in general.

This will, at least initially, cause a decline in the readership on The Globe and Mail’s website.

While decreasing ad revenues are a reality for newspapers — there is some logic to moving towards a paywall — they can’t merely expect everyone, especially economically stricken students, to start coughing up cash to get news.

Other online websites will receive the readers that abandoned the companies that started charging money.

This is a path that newspapers and other websites such as Wikipedia, can’t go down. It’s just a matter of time before more publications begin to charge their readers and eventually, we’ll all bite the bullet and pay up.

The impacts that paywalls will have on the credibility of free sources — for the time that they do remain free — might be substantial.

If websites want to keep their content free, they might pay their journalists less or find cheaper ways of reporting, and, as a result, the overall quality of the work may diminish.

Twitter will continue to be free and give people news updates, but there’s only so much you can say in 140 characters if you know most people won’t click on the link to an article with a price tag.

Sooner or later we’re going to be paying for everything on the Internet, and this is simply not how the Internet was designed to become.

This trend is almost identical to the trajectory at which academic materials are moving. The price of textbooks and copyrighted materials is ridiculous — and it’s only increasing.

The recent agreement between the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) and Access Copyright will now enable universities to charge a flat, per-student fee of $26, as opposed to the somewhat more flexible fee it had originally.

As media companies act more like corporations — which they arguably already do — it’s hard to see news, staying unbiased and without an alternative agenda, as it is so commonly seen in the United States with the fiasco that is Fox News.
Will Canada face the same fate?

Since news companies will be essentially controlling what people pay for, will that affect how information is presented to the public?

With the consolidation of media companies becoming more of a problem, fewer voices will be heard.

I understand that people need to be paid for their work. If I decide to join the journalism world after my undergrad then I will surely want to be paid for my work.

But the idea of information being charged left, right and centre is certainly making me worried about the future of credible, free and relatively unbiased news sources.

Not only news junkies such as myself should be alarmed about this. The average person should be too.

News or information in general should be a public service and people should be able to access it rather easily.

With the CBC desperately clinging to its status as a public service, huge newspapers like The Globe and Mail moving to a charged service and academic materials becoming increasingly expensive, times look bleak.

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