Why I subscribed to a paid newspaper
I have had a music-streaming subscription for four years now and a cloud storage subscription for one. It took me until today to purchase a digital subscription to a paid newspaper. In a world of free and hyper-information, the reasons to pay for mainstream media like newspapers are less and less clear. Here are the motivations that pushed me to subscribe.
1. Defense of our institutions
For people born and raised in Western society, most freedoms are taken for granted. We tend to maintain that freedoms and institutions representing them will stand forever but — this is wrong. Examples of attacks on the freedom of the press are becoming mainstream in various countries including the U.S. and France. Repeatedly, the French National Front has refused to authorize certain newspapers to participate in their events. Politicians, mostly far-right and far-left for now, openly criticize media and challenge their credibility. It’s our duty to defend institutions like newspapers to protect our democracies.
With the rise of internet and social media, it has become easier to find and share information. As a result, people are flooded by news and are passively taking in facts without investigating their accuracy. Once the global context is lost, facts can be used as dangerous weapons. This is why we need to always spend time investigating and making connections between them. If you don’t have time to do so, support talented journalists and trusted newspapers that are doing the work for you. Personally, when I have doubts or questions about a specific subject, I ask people that are familiar with the subject to give me their point of view. As an example, French newspapers tend to be biased when they deal with Middle Eastern and Russian topics. In this situation, the opinions of my friends from world regions become the most accurate and reflective of cultural differences that are usually not covered in depth in newspapers.
3. Quality journalism has a price
In addition, we need to differentiate journalism and news media. Even if it’s easy to find irrelevant information, it’s much harder to find qualified people to analyze and verify it. Quality journalism has its costs: pay for articles (directly or indirectly via advertisements) and take time to read them. However, the resources spent reading long and detailed articles written by expert journalists will give you meaningful tools to analyze the news and will prevent you from drawing quick conclusions based only on unfounded facts and personal emotions. With the rise of Facebook, my way of consuming news changed a lot. Before, I would read newspaper articles and try to cross check information using search engines. With Facebook, I receive two types of information. On one side, articles that are mostly in line with my opinions and on the other side, breaking news without context that trigger emotions. By subscribing to this newspaper, I will try to do a better investigative work and hopefully be less affected by emotional breaking news.
4. The integrity of institutions
On the other side, as a subscriber, I expect integrity from newspapers. This value is necessary to counterbalance the power that governments, companies and some individuals piled up over the years. We need to be aware of potential conflicts of interest happening when profits and investor interests drive newspapers’ strategies. One classic example of this is Al Jazeera — it’s a state media owned by Qatar, which leads us to question the integrity of the newspaper. In order for mainstream media to keep their popularity and legitimacy, they will have to show to their audience that they care about the truth and that they are using their power with ethics. For now, a balance between mainstream and social media seems to be the most effective way to form your own opinions. On that note, I think that Al Jazeera, with AJ+, has done a good job at representing both sides.
5. Pick the right newspaper
Selecting a newspaper is not an easy task. Cultural, geographic, or political reasons, among others, will help you pick the right one. In my case, I limited myself to French newspapers, as it’s one of the few things that links me to the news of my home country. Then, I narrowed my choice down to three that I was reading regularly. Finally, I made a decision based on the “political neutrality” of the paper and the quality of its articles. Despite the fact that I have been loyal to this newspaper for a while, I will always question my choice. My goal is to support the freedom of the press, not defend a specific newspaper that could lose its integrity.
In our world of hyper-information, investigative work done by qualified people, is necessary for the best journalism. It allows us to not fall into conclusions that help politicians and other groups take advantage of the population. Mainstream media must act with integrity and use its power with ethical judgement to protect democracy. By defending the freedom of the press and the institutions gravitating around it you will make yourself a protector of the equilibrium between governments and citizens.
- On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder