Democracy Dies in Darkness…and Behind Paywalls
Americans want the truth. We want real, reliable news. But the reality is, most of us can’t afford to pay for it.
Imagine scrolling through social media, passing up on the click bait and the memes and clicking on an actual news article of a current event, only to be met with a paywall block the second the article loads. An ironically-placed ‘Subscribe To Continue Reading’ pop-up then appears beneath the Washington Post’s “Democracy Dies in Darkness” slogan banner. Then you exit out and go back to your social feed.
This same experience is happening to millions of truth-seeking Americans looking for reliable news, only to be blocked out by paywalls. Instead, they turn to free news sites which frequently spread disinformation by offering clickbait—because it is what they can afford.
Americans Can’t Afford to Pay for News
Paywalls price out everyday, hard-working Americans who have more important bills to pay than a news subscription. This makes them reliant on free, often less reliable news sources.
By making people pay for the well-researched, reliable content, these news networks are propping open the door for disinformation to infiltrate and spread in low-income communities (defined as 33% of US population that is making $47,000 or less per year), which are significantly less likely to pay for news. Studies have shown that “the people who pay for news in the U.S. are wealthier than those who do not.” Only 20% of Americans are currently paying for some type of online news.
Now, with all the major papers hiding their content behind paywalls, it has become impossible to counter fake news by sharing relevant information as friends and family can't even access it.
Elon Musk said it best when he called out Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post, for failing to do his part to ward off the spread of disinfo.
“The Washington Post’s current slogan is “Democracy Dies in Darkness”. Catchy – for sure – but then what’s up with the paywall for news!?”
“The Washington Post should change its tagline to ‘Democracy dies behind our paywall.” If you’re so concerned about protecting democracy, stop forcing people to pay for (allegedly!) important news! Your boss Besos can certainly afford it, even after buying a support yacht for his yacht.”
The purpose of these news outlets is to promote the truth; their purpose is to inform citizens about the world around them and assist them in learning how to operate within it. However, with the presence of paywalls, this information is not as easily accessible to the average person as it should be. Instead, it is mainly accessible to those who are willing to pay the subscription fee.
This means that news networks like the New York Times and Washington Post are not in the business of sharing the truth—they are in the business of increasing their profit margins. That needs to change.
If these newspapers continue to portray themselves as lofty defenders of American liberty, they need to acknowledge that their current paywall system as it exists relegates them to preaching to their own choir and doing nothing to truly combat disinformation in our country.
The fight against disinformation can not rest on the backs of everyday Americans alone. Even if we identify, avoid, and even report disinformation stories all day long, that still does not solve our problem and deliver us real, truthful news. Americans deserve access to reliable news.