Right thing to do

Dear Editor:

I want to thank The Review for recently instituting a paywall and stepping into the modern newspaper landscape by so doing.

I have written several pieces for The Review over the years, I wrote regularly for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from 1996 through 2004, and my family has a long history in the newspaper business, including having bought the Marion Star from President Warren G. Harding in 1923. Add to this the fact that I am married to a reporter, and it’s safe to say that I bring an informed opinion to the table on this issue.

Lots of folks in (and from) the area have been complaining mightily about having to pay to get The Review online now. For them, I have only one question: How many of these people would be willing to provide, for free for a decade or so, whatever goods or services they put out into the world via their work? Not one is a pretty good guess.

Some of these complaints have centered around, “The paper doesn’t need to charge the readers – heck, they can make all they need just from advertising.” Assertions like this have zero basis in truth. In fact, online/digital advertising was up industry-wide by $207 million in 2011 vs. 2010 (the most recent years for which I can find figures). But print advertising was down $2.1 billion. That means that print LOSSES outweighed digital GAINS by more than 10 to 1.

Giving away the paper via the website for free was, is, and always will be a completely unsustainable business model – which is why hundreds and hundreds of smaller newspapers around the country (worldwide, it’s likely in the thousands) have closed their doors since 2000 or so when the internet really exploded onto the scene beyond just e-mail.

It’s easy to forget that good newspapers make it look simple. Everyone recognizes that other professionals – nurses, say, or policemen, lawyers, mechanics and teachers, to name just a few – have a lot of training and expertise in what they do. People know this, and know that if they want the job done right, they need to deal with someone who is well-versed and experienced in their chosen profession. But generally speaking, most folks seem simultaneously to be of the mass misconception that newspaper reporters and photographers just scribble down any old thing or snap any old photo and call it a day. I honestly think they may believe that software is so advanced now the paper is somehow magically edited and laid out without human intervention or skill.

There is training and experience and expertise involved in putting out a newspaper every single day of the year – a product which differs every single day because of the nature of the news. If you want FACTS responsibly reported, believe me, fellow East Liverpudlians near and far, you want to have reporters, editors, photographers and other staff who are paid a living wage and who are respected for that expertise. Otherwise, you could just get what passes for a pale imitation of the news over the backyard fence or on Facebook. And you know in your heart of hearts that you would wonder, all the while, what’s true and reliable and what’s false, misleading or just gossip.

Thank you for the 100-plus years of service The Review has provided to East Liverpool and beyond, and thank you for launching the paywall for the online edition. It was the right thing to do.

Catherine S. Vodrey