complaints, News, rants

You don’t work for free! Don’t expect journalists to work for free!

It’s a shame that today’s featured photo/meme is so truthful. Journalism shouldn’t be a “joke” profession.

Today’s rant is inspired by a comment I read on The New York Times’s Facebook page. The comment was in response to an article about Dolly Parton’s attempts (and unfortunate failure) to motivate Tennesseans to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The person had cut and pasted the op-ed article, written by Margaret Renkl, into the comment section on Facebook. Then she left another comment directly under it that read, “F*ck paywalls!”

A little mood music. Like Rodney Dangerfield, writers don’t get no respect…

I left her a comment that read, “Do you work for free?” Someone “laughed” at that. I’m not sure why it was a funny comment. Maybe she saw my point, or maybe she thinks paying for news is crazy. I don’t think it’s an outrageous concept at all. Many people go to school to learn how to write the news. I also know for a fact that plenty of people can’t write for shit. They can’t formulate ideas in a coherent way, produce grammatically correct material, or even spell worth a damn. I’m glad there are actual writers with talent, education, and skill who write for publications like The New York Times. The average person should have more respect for what journalists and other writers do, and stop expecting them to work for free.

It really bugs me that people complain about having to pay for newspaper subscriptions. Do people really not understand that journalism is a legitimate and extremely important profession? That’s right, it’s actually WORK to write something of good quality, especially something that is considered publishable in a respected newspaper. It takes time and money to gather the news, and it takes talent to write a piece that is enjoyable enough to finish. Why do so many people think it’s acceptable to “steal” content? Would these same people walk into a store and steal a book or a printed newspaper?

Journalism is a time honored and vital profession. We rely on journalists to deliver the news in a timely and accurate fashion. Newspapers also offer opinions, which give us something to think about and discuss with friends and loved ones, or even in blog posts like this one. They contain recipes, reviews, and classified ads, all of which are useful and valuable to the public. The people who deliver the news– yes, even online– have to eat, just like you do. They have to gas up their cars, pay for housing, and keep the lights on. They deserve to be paid for their work. One way that can happen is when people purchase subscriptions. That’s how newspapers stay afloat.

Sadly, newspapers are dying. According to The Guardian, which doesn’t put its content behind a paywall, but does welcome donations, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that “the newspaper industry has lost more than 50% of its employees since 2001. While several big national papers like the New York Times are healthy, more typical are the closures, bankruptcies, and extreme downsizing that increasingly leave cities, towns and rural communities without local news.”

The Internet has been very tough on the newspaper industry. People can pick and choose from so many different papers or other news sources. It used to be common to subscribe to the paper in one’s community. But now, we can all go online and read from an endless array of newspapers from around the world or watch an array of news on television or the Internet. While more people than ever are reading the news, there’s a lot less money to go around to support the papers. And so, a lot of newspapers have died or are dying. If too many of them die, it could lead to the death of freedom itself. Journalism is vital to providing unbiased information to the masses.

I understand that newspaper subscriptions are expensive, especially if you don’t have a lot of money. There are “free” sources of news, that rely mostly on ads to get revenue. Some papers also offer a few free articles per month as a public service or incentive to subscribe. So often, though, I read rude comments from people who lament about having to pay to read. I’m sure you don’t work for free. Why should journalists and publishers? If people don’t pay for a subscription, how can we expect them to keep writing high quality content?

What’s the alternative to not paying for news? The abolition of the free press is one alternative, but that would come at a high price. It would likely mean we’d mostly be getting news that is heavily slanted by bias and the preferences of the benefactor. I don’t generally rant a lot about communism or socialism in this blog, but in this case, I think it makes sense. If the government alone provides the news, how truthful do you think it would be? The same thing goes for a businesses that provide the news. There needs to be a healthy balance of news sources available in a free society. Without money, it’s not possible to maintain news sources. Writing for news outlets can be a stressful, dangerous job, too. Plenty of journalists have put themselves in harm’s way to get stories for the world. Sometimes, those career decisions end in tragedy.

At this writing, I subscribe to several newspapers. I get The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Irish Times, and my hometown paper, the Gazette-Journal. I also subscribe to an online periodical called The Local: Germany, which provides news about Germany in English, and The Atlantic magazine, which regularly depresses me, but does provide some food for thought. Most people don’t want or need to subscribe to as many papers as I do. I like to have the subscriptions, though, because they help me write my blog.

I don’t get paid to write this blog, but I am a big believer in accuracy and quality. I like to be able to quote sources. It’s much harder to do that if I don’t have newspaper subscriptions that allow me to read and research as much as I need or want. So, while I personally get something out of my subscriptions, I’d like to think that anyone who reads my blog might also get something from them, since this blog doesn’t cost anything to read. Of course, this blog isn’t a news source, nor is it particularly highbrow journalism. No one should be reading my blog for anything more than entertainment value, even though I have found myself quoted in undergraduate and high school academic papers and on Wikipedia. 😀 I get a kick out of that, especially since they refer to me as “The Overeducated Housewife”. Just this morning, I found myself quoted in a term paper offered for sale on a site called Course Hero. I guess I’ve arrived… or education standards have really slipped.

Since I don’t like hypocrisy, I just contributed 50 euros to The Guardian, since I do use that paper sometimes. I used to be a regular patron, but I accidentally unsubscribed when I tried to turn off auto-pay. I did that because I don’t like auto-pay deducting money from my bank account. I prefer to do it manually and consciously. That way, I can be sure there’s enough money in my account and I still want or need the subscription.

I also like to contribute money to causes and needy individuals, although I’ve found that a whole lot of people neglect to say “thank you”. I just gave a dog rescue $200 through their donation link. I’ve never even adopted from this outfit. But so far, I’ve not gotten so much as a “thanks” from them. So that will probably be the only time I send them any money, since I know there are so many other rescues in need. Ditto for people– sometimes even “friends” on GoFundMe– who ask for money and then don’t even express appreciation.

Newspapers are different, though, because they truly do offer a valuable and VITAL service, particularly in a free society. I think the availability of quality journalism is very important and worth paying for, so I will continue to chastise people like the woman on Facebook who wrote “f*ck paywalls” underneath the content she stole from The New York Times. I’d like to tell her, “Lady, you’re not Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Newspapers NEED your financial support. So fuck you for saying ‘f*ck paywalls’. I hope someone stiffs you sometime. Maybe you’ll learn some empathy.”

I don’t like to be preachy or shaming, but really… think about this for a moment. Consider paying to subscribe to at least one news source. The press needs your support, and your mind will be better off for actually reading, and paying for, your news.

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true crime

Repost: Another “crime blast from the past”…

Here’s another repost from my original blog. This one was written on January 15, 2019. I’m leaving it as/is.

This morning, as Bill and I were enjoying biscuits and gravy, we got on the topic of Jayme Closs, the thirteen year old girl who was abducted from her parents’ Barron, Wisconsin home on October 15, 2018.  Jayme Closs, whose parents Denise and James Closs were murdered by her 21 year old captor, Jake Patterson, managed to escape her kidnapper last Thursday.  She was being held about 70 miles from her home and Patterson apparently got complacent.  Jayme got help from a woman who was walking her dog past the place where Patterson had been keeping her.

I will admit, I haven’t really been keeping up with this story, since I’ve been busy with our move.  However, I did read about her escape and I remembered hearing about her abduction in the fall.  I made the mistake of reading some of the comments on the news articles written about this case.  A lot of people were posting that they thought maybe Closs and Patterson had an affair.

For the record, I DO NOT believe that to be the case.  I think even if that was the situation, Closs would be a victim.  Closs has said she hadn’t known Patterson before he took her and murdered her parents.  Patterson has, himself, apparently told police that he spotted Closs getting on a school bus and decided he “wanted” her.  I don’t think Jayme Closs aided and abetted Patterson in any way.

Talking about this case and the speculation that Closs had something to do with it did make me remember a case that happened in Virginia back in 1990, though.  The incident occurred in Middlesex County on November 10, 1990.  I was a freshman in college and was about a month from finishing up my first semester before I would be coming home to Gloucester County for Christmas break.  To get home from Longwood University, I’d be skirting nearby Middlesex County, although I don’t think the route I took actually took me through there.  I did drive through Middlesex years later when I lived in northern Virginia and came to Gloucester to visit.

On that November day in 1990, 14 year old Jessica Wiseman and her boyfriend, 17 year old Chris Thomas, killed Wiseman’s parents, 32 year old James B. and Kathy Wiseman.  The Wisemans had objected to Jessica and Chris seeing each other, so the young couple decided Jessica’s parents needed to die.  Chris and Jessica went into her parents’ bedroom and shot them both, although Kathy Wiseman was able to run into Jessica’s bedroom.  She was shot again, and that killed her.

At the time of the crime, no one in Virginia under age 15 could be tried as an adult, regardless of how serious the crime was.  Jessica Wiseman was tried as a juvenile in a closed court.  She was declared a delinquent and spent the rest of her teen years in a juvenile detention facility.  She was freed on July 26, 1997, which was her 21st birthday.

Chris Thomas was 17 years old, though, so although he was technically a juvenile, he was eligible to be tried as an adult.  He pleaded guilty to killing James Wiseman and not guilty to killing Kathy Wiseman.  He was convicted of both killings and sentenced to death.  At the time, Virginia juries were not permitted to sentence a killer to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  They were faced with the choice of sentencing Thomas to death or allowing for parole, which could have meant he would have been released as soon as twenty years after conviction.

Attorneys for Thomas have said that he was trying to protect Wiseman by taking the blame.  Two women who were imprisoned with Jessica Wiseman also said that she was the one who had actually pulled the trigger, not Thomas.  I’m not sure exactly where the truth lies, although it does seem unfair to me that Jessica got to live her life while Thomas lost his to state supported homicide.  Thomas was scheduled to be executed in June 1999.  The execution was put off until January 10, 2000, when Thomas was 26 years old.  He ate fried chicken for his last supper.  

I remember when this case was news.  In those days, I used to read the Daily Press every day.  There was a columnist named Jim Spencer who wrote opinions for the paper.  My dad didn’t like him because Spencer was an outspoken liberal.  I, on the other hand, was drawn to Spencer’s columns.  I usually read them whenever I noticed them.  In 2003, Spencer moved on to Denver, Colorado, where he wrote for the Denver Post.

As I was reading up on the Wiseman murders this morning, I happened to find an old column Spencer wrote for the Denver Post in 2007.  He was reporting on another murder that had happened in Denver that reminded him of the Wiseman case, which he’d also written about.  I did know that Spencer had moved out of Virginia, although I hadn’t been following his career from afar.  I went to see if Spencer was still in Denver, but it appears that he was a victim of downsizing.  I think he has managed to find another job in journalism, although it took awhile and he had to detour into a different field.  Looks like he now reports in Washington, DC after a stint in Minneapolis.

It actually makes me a little sad to read about Jim Spencer’s situation.  Good journalists are a dying breed.  Nowadays, people don’t want to pay for a newspaper subscription.  While it’s true that more writers can be read with the advent of blogging and self-publishing, it’s much harder for legitimate authors to make a decent living.  These old stories become relics of the past, with fewer skilled people to write them.

I find true crime fascinating.  Everyone has a story.  People involved in true crimes especially have stories.  Some of the stories are more tragic than others.  What happened to Chris Thomas doesn’t seem fair to me.  I am not a fan of the death penalty in all but the most extreme cases.  I don’t think he should have been executed for killing the Wisemans.  Moreover, he was technically a juvenile when he committed his crimes.  While I would expect most juveniles to know that killing is wrong, I also know that young people do not have fully functioning brains until they’re older.  It also doesn’t seem fair that Thomas was executed while his girlfriend only did about seven years in a juvenile facility.  But then, I guess there is a pretty big difference in a person’s maturity levels between the ages of 14 and 17.

As for Jayme Closs, I have nothing but compassion for her.  She must have gone through hell.  What a blessing it is that she was able to find help after escaping her captor.  He is in Wisconsin, so unless there is a federal angle applied to his case, he’ll probably rot in prison for a long while.  Wisconsin no longer has the death penalty.

I may have to start following the Closs/Patterson case now…

Here are the original comments from this post.

jonoJanuary 17, 2019 at 5:42 PM

Since it happened not too far from here (as the crow flies)it has dominated the local news. Jake will not likely see the light of day again other than obligatory time in the prison yard.

We have been watching the long, slow death of real journalism for some time now. There are still many good ones out there, but the masses seem to prefer entertainment to good reporting. It is very sad.

  1. I hope he doesn’t. He needs to be put away for a long time.
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