I have written for this newspaper for almost half of my 57 years, having started way back in 1986. That’s a scary thought. Not that I’ve been allowed to write for the Daily Journal for almost 30 years but that I’m 57 years old.
That said, for about the past 10 years I haven’t even been able to subscribe to the newspaper. I live in Oxford these days, actually about 6 miles outside of Oxford in rural Lafayette County where most of the services city dwellers take for granted aren’t available. No gas service, no sewer service and, until just recently, only dial-up Internet service. The Information Dirt Road as opposed to superhighway.
I also can’t receive home delivery of the newspaper I write for. Too few subscribers out this way making a delivery route uneconomical for the Journal despite my repeated attempts to convince my neighbors they’re missing out on something great – namely me.
I can understand the Journal’s reasoning. A newspaper is a business just like any other and needs revenue to fund the expenses that go into producing it. While we on the news side like to keep our distance from the business end of the paper, we still recognize that’s what pays the bills and, more importantly, us.
So for about the last decade, I’ve had to depend on the Journal’s online edition to keep up with what’s happening in Northeast Mississippi because, let’s face it, no one outside of Northeast Mississippi gives a rat’s patooey. Now the Journal is following the lead of about a third of the nation’s newspapers in erecting what is called a “paywall,” requiring a subscription to access its online content.
I’ve read some of the grousing following the announcement with the gist being that, “There’s lots of other outlets for news. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” True. But not local news. Sure you can get national and international news from a variety of sources, but isn’t what’s going on in your own backyard equally, if not more, important?
When I moved to the country I had to install satellite TV. No cable out here. The satellite company considers Memphis channels local here, not ones in Northeast Mississippi. So I had to shell out some bucks for a TV antenna so I could watch Northeast Mississippi TV stations to keep up with local news. It was worth it. I don’t care what’s happening in Memphis.
And now I will pay to continue having access to more than just cursory coverage of local news through the Daily Journal’s web site. Paywalls have proven not to work in large media markets where there’s lots of competition. The San Francisco Chronicle and Dallas Morning News recently did away with theirs.
But here in Northeast Mississippi, what really are your options for keeping up with your neighbors? Not just news but things like obituaries, wedding announcements or classified ads?
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.