Obama: Online news doesn't come for free

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Want to pay to read your news online?

It's a solid bet that most of you don't – so accustomed are we to clicking freely from the site of one newspaper to the next. But over the past few months, the heads of many prominent outlets, including the New York Times, have signaled that they are interested in stowing away swaths of their content behind a series of pay-walls.

And now the pay-wallers have their own champion-in-chief.

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In an interview with the editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio, President Barack Obama hinted that newspapers should consider charging their readers:

Journalistic integrity, you know, fact-based reporting, serious investigative reporting, how to retain those ethics in all these different new media and how to make sure that it's paid for, is really a challenge. But it's something that I think is absolutely critical to the health of our democracy. What I hope is that people start understanding if you're getting your newspaper over the Internet, that's not free and there's got to be a way to find a business model that supports that.

Obama also weighed in on the tone of digital journalism:

I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding.

According to Dave Murray, special assignments editor at the Blade, Obama was equivocal on the subject of the "Newspaper Revitalization Act" recently penned by Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland. Cardin's bill would allow newspapers to become non-profits, and thus benefit from the tax advantages of a non-profit corporation.

In a July survey, the New York Times asked subscribers whether they would be willing to pay a fee of $2.50 a for access to NYTimes.com. The survey stated that “The New York Times website, nytimes.com, is considering charging a monthly fee of $5.00 to access its content, including all its articles, blogs and multimedia.”

Under that plan, current subscribers to the Times would pay a reduced rate of $2.50 a month for access.

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