Journalists Should Stop Berating Nonsubscribers – An Editorial

There they are – one after another – journalists berating people that don’t subscribe to the newspaper and/or website they work for. Every single day on social media. Many of these are the same journalists that are doing some incredible work, through good times and bad, and more than likely, aren’t getting paid enough. They’re frustrated they might lose their jobs and their coworkers might lose their jobs – they might’ve already. They’re unsure about their future and the future of a profession that is mighty and worth fighting for. I get all of it, except the part about berating nonsubscribers. There’s so much more to the story that isn’t being addressed in those contemptuous social media posts, it makes journalists look bad and by extension, journalism too.

What happens when journalists post their contempt for those that don’t subscribe on social media? Quite often, their coworkers and journalist friends share their post, resulting in quite a few journalists berating members of the community. In a small community, this can quickly look like the majority of journalists in that community berating a lot of people – people they might not know. Meanwhile, there’s little, if any, disdain being shown towards the advertisers that aren’t advertising, a subscription model that might not work or work for all, owners, executive staff, board members, the internet, hedge funds, social media companies and, and, and. In other words, it’s a one-sided story where a journalist decides to berate people that don’t subscribe and are of the mistaken belief that Tweet or Facebook post will fix all that is broken. It’s ugly and it weakens journalism, rather than strengthening it. It’s unsympathetic, distasteful, underinformed, misguided and unprofessional. It makes all of us look bad. It’s against all that we do and should stand for – our job is to answer who, what, when, why, where and how. It’s not to accuse one group of people for a business that has problems. Showing contempt for people that don’t subscribe to a website and/or newspaper is showing a degree of entitlement I just don’t understand. Do these journalists know who these nonsubscribers are? Do they know if these nonsubscribers are struggling to make ends meet? Do they know if that nonsubscriber can buy that medication their child needs? Do they know if they have a job? A home? Do they know anything about them?

On the topic of paying for news or being able to, many are currently struggling financially because of unemployment or underemployment related to the coronavirus pandemic – and yet, even during this period, there are the journalists berating nonsubscribers on social media. Where’s the empathy? Where’s the understanding? Where’s the whole story? Haven’t many journalists struggled financially? I have. I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck. My journalism degree was the result of taking college classes while serving on active duty in the U.S. Navy and the Montgomery G.I. Bill thereafter. Blaming that person who isn’t subscribing, the one we know nothing about, the one that simply might not have the money, is not looking at the whole story and it’s not good journalism. In recent history and even before, we’ve seen and reported on the results of posting ugly, insensitive and hurtful comments on social media . Are journalists looking at themselves before they post? Are they truly looking at themselves and understanding what they’re doing? Berating or trying to guilt people that don’t subscribe and doing it without explaining so much more to a story that has so much more to it, it’s not pretty, it’s petty and it’s entitlement. Is there a different approach? Ask people to help and explain the whole story. Explain it all. Because it’s not just about the people that aren’t subscribing, but might want to read. It’s not now about that and it never has been.

Yes, I work for for an AM radio station where we provide free news over the airwaves and internet. We don’t have subscribers, but that doesn’t make me unsympathetic to the journalists working for those companies that do. I don’t want anyone to lose jobs, I’m upset so many already have, I want all of us to get paid well and I want the community to have a lot of choices where they get their news. It makes the community better. I grew up in a newspaper family. It is concerning what’s happening to so many journalists and to the companies they work for. BUT IT’S NOT NEW. My uncle was the editor and associate publisher of The Washington Star. My aunt was the Star’s fashion editor. August 7, 1981 was the last issue published of The Washington Star, after 128 years in business. That was pretty big news in my family, in the Washington, D.C. area and around the world. I was working for Patch, when I was told there was no more money to pay us. Journalism has not fallen. Newspapers, radio stations, online news sites and magazines have fallen and will continue to. Berating nonsubscribers isn’t the solution – it’s an added problem.

Attacking people on social media isn’t the answer to helping a business that needs help. Attacking people on social media isn’t the answer for anything. And if it makes journalists feel better to do it, consider that nonsubscriber might not know where their next meal is coming from. Businesses struggle and fail for many reasons. Journalism will continue to live. And what journalists should be doing is encouraging people to consume news. Journalists should be explaining media literacy better than we have. Journalists should not berate people for not spending money. Journalists should not seem entitled. It’s not a good reflection on any of us, or on our chosen profession.

The article linked below has many interesting points. I hope some of the journalists that have berated nonsubscribers will read it – https://theoutline.com/post/7047/journalism-should-be-free?zd=1&zi=u4typuvy

Supporting local journalism is important. The stories of a community need to be told.

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