A loose transcript of a recent conversation over the phone:
A man called to discuss writing a comment to our website on the discussed $130 million water park resort with developers eyeing Talking Rock.
Caller: I am absolutely opposed to this. I bet they are planning to let the taxpayers pay for it with a big bond.
Editor: Actually, no on the bond. We reported last week that the developers had once sought a $50 million bond, but that has been dropped completely.
Caller: Well I bet county is giving them the sewage?
Editor: No, we reported the sewage is being discussed but the county has definitely not agreed to give it to them.
Caller: I’m sure all the county officials are trying to get this thing here.
Editor: From the comments in our last story, it’s safe to say at least one commissioner expressed serious concerns against it.
Caller: Oh really. How many jobs is this thing supposed to bring?
Editor: We reported this as well. Would you like to read the story we have already done before commenting?
Caller: No. I’m not going to pay the 75 cents for it. And your website would charge me a $1 to read the whole thing. I just read the free story.
Editor: So, all you got was a short press release?
Caller: Yeah. I’m not going to pay for the news.
Everybody is aware that there is free news all over the Internet. But as the above demonstrates, you get what you pay for.
At the Progress we don’t use aggressive sales pitches to push subscriptions. If you are like one of the more than 7,000 homes in the county that sees fit to pay us our 75 cents (less for a yearly subscription) each week, we truly appreciate it. We work hard to see that you get your money’s worth of information. Facts like the backstory on the water park or the amount of commercial real estate in the county versus private homes. Facts like the state of county finances or news on the courthouse project.
With the water park we interviewed numerous people from all sides and got the facts as well as views of the economic development people and the commissioner for that district. This information is worth 75 cents - we’re sure of that.
Another similar incident to the phone call also comes to mind. There were several people who commented they couldn’t understand why the county held the recent vote on Sunday alcohol sales by itself on a ballot and questioned the cost in different online forums.
But Progress readers would have read comments from the commissioner and the election board on the timing and would have seen the price (budgeted at $16,000) in stories, as well as a separate letter to the editor directly from an election board member explaining the issue further. Progress readers would also have seen projections of increased tax that would be collected with the extra sales made by the stores involved.
If you are content with just the basics, like there is a water park possibly coming, the free version of news is fine. But if you want to get involved or comment or really understand what’s going on, you are going to need to spend 75 cents (less than the cost of a 20 oz. drink) or you will look half-informed.
We will continue to provide breaking news and some additional stories online for free. We’ll put stories about events like ArtFest online at no charge. They often come to us for free through press releases and we’re doing our part to promote the community by posting them. But if you want stories that dig into things, that require reporters making calls and asking questions, you shouldn’t expect it for free any more than you expect doctors to give examinations, teachers to lessons or stores to give away free groceries.