open news during crisis

My friend Cole lives in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. The area was hit pretty hard by the hurricane, and there was a LOT of flooding. For some reason, it’s not making the news in the way other disasters have. Cole’s been posting photos, and they’re really scary stuff.

There’s news, of course, provided by the local newspaper.

Screen Shot 2011 09 14 at 10 24 04 PM

Looting? Holy crap! I knew the flooding was bad, but looting? I better check that out. I hope it’s not too serious. I should click the link to find out more.

Screen Shot 2011 09 14 at 10 24 33 PM

But all news is locked behind a paywall. What? Not even a teaser paragraph? Nothing?

Well, Google News has some coverage, but not from Bloomsburg directly:

Screen Shot 2011 09 14 at 10 29 12 PM

But that particular story on looting doesn’t seem to be there. There’s a story from a newspaper in a nearby town, though, but it only mentions looting in passing, in another county.

So, there’s a cone of silence over the area. Those of us who aren’t there can’t get anything close to the full story, and have to go to other sources of variable quality to try to fill in the gaps.

This scenario makes me hope for 2 things:

  1. that a disaster like this never happens to my home
  2. that, if it did happen, my friends and family would be able to get information about what’s going on

The newspaper paywall isn’t doing anything except blocking outsiders from finding information. Why lock information about the disaster and related activities behind a paywall? It doesn’t make sense.

10 thoughts on “open news during crisis”

  1. Brings me back to the prediction I heard a year or two ago about how big hyper-local blogging is going to become. When the major newspapers can’t figure out how to make a dime without putting up walls, it’s the people like Cole putting it all out there and the bloggers covering the beat that will rise to the top.

    1. It’s a strange paradox. The newspapers need to make money. And to do that, they decide to block access to their information when it’s needed most, unless someone wants to subscribe. Do they figure that’s the best time to acquire new subscribers? Have they just not thought through how people interact with news and information now? Give me a paywall, and I’m not coming back. Give me a paywall during a crisis, and I’ll gladly watch your empire burn.

  2. During the 4 or 5 days of the most intense flooding around the area, the Press Enterprise lifted its paywall, allowing anybody access to the site for free because its delivery drivers weren’t able to make all their routes because of closed roads. Once full delivery was restored the paywall went up.

    What you people fail to grasp is that although the PE is a news gathering organization, it is also a business whose goal is to make money. The newspaper business is a floundering business mainly because so many organizations give their information away for free on the Internet. Why should I go buy a subscription to the paper when I can get it free online. What the PE has done is realize that fact. Paper subscribers are given a log-in to the web site with their subscription, so it’s not like you have to buy a separate paper and web site subscription.

    The PE is one paper that has gotten it right.

    1. To be clear, I wasn’t making any comment on the quality of the newspaper. I haven’t had the chance to see their work, so can’t possibly have been implying anything (good or bad) about the newspaper’s content.

      Also, the business should be based on news and not paper.

    2. and, really, there was nothing stopping Cole from just copying and pasting relevant articles and emailing them to friends and family who might be concerned. that’s not different than the way my grandparents used to mail newspaper clippings. but with an actual website representing the newspaper, it seems strange to have to intermediate like that.

    3. Hope that works out for them. Meanwhile they don’t appear in Google Search results, don’t get any publicity from anyone because I can’t link to their content, and there are plenty of other ways to get the information they hold so precious. If their online efforts are simply to convenience their print subscribers well good for them, just seems a waste of time and effort.

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