Free Internet news! Free! (But at what cost?)

I expect the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a newspaper I’ve long admired, to go belly up — even though I have no specific information about its finances and whether it is, indeed, in danger of folding.

But this week, it gave its product to me for free. I would have gladly paid up to 5 cents to read just one of its stories. But the JS didn’t charge me. What kind of business model allows me to consume a product for free?

I learned of the story through an e-mailed version of Romenesko, the legendary (or infamous, depending on your POV), media news page at Poynter. org, the Web site of the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank.

The Poynter e-mail contained this tease: “Wisconsin university football coach bans student reporters (http://www.jsonline.com/business/43539347.html).” I clicked on the link and —ta da — there it was, a story written by JS reporter Don Walker. Free. Didn’t have to pay a penny. And I would have. Gladly.

I know this isn’t a rare phenomenon. I suspect you’ve read news for free online, too. Bet you kinda expect it to be free, even demand that it be free. Perhaps you think it’s some kind of birthright. But in the long run, if you do not pay for the product of professional journalists, you will lose one of your best defenses against secrecy, corruption, and tyranny.
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Ten years on: was Columbine the rule or the exception?

Part two in a series

How did it happen? Why did it happen? There’s simply no way to measure how many hours have devoted to these questions in the ten years and four days since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire at Columbine High School, and while we don’t (and never will) have all the answers, we do have some of them. Obviously a good bit of the discussion focuses on the individuals themselves, and other analyses cast a broader net, examining the social factors that shaped the individuals. In a way, the question we’re still debating perhaps boils down to nature vs. nurture. Were Harris and Klebold Natural Born Killers? Or are they better understood as by-products of deeper social trends and dynamics?

The answer is probably “All of the above,” but we can’t simply check C and be on our merry, uncritical way. Continue reading

Twin-track talks in Burma raise peace hopes

Thailand seeks to mediate peace talks between Burma’s ruling junta and the Karen ethnic group that it’s been trying to wipe out for 60 years. Norway, meanwhile, hopes to heal the rift between warring Karen factions.

When we think of the face of the opposition to Burma’s ruthless ruling junta, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi usually comes to mind. Now in her fourteenth year of on-again, off-again house arrest, she emerged as a national leader when thousands of protesting students and monks were mowed down by the junta on August 8, 1988. The 8888 Uprising, as it came to be known, was reprised, if on a lesser scale, in 2007 when over 100 civilians and monks were killed during the “Saffron Revolution.” Continue reading