I have a relative who is a very kindhearted, altruistic soul, and he occasionally bends my ear about the newspaper.
He believes we should give it away free online because that way, it will do more good. He also believes we should do away with advertisements because he sees them as an annoying imposition on his time, an encouragement to people to buy things they don't need, and a hurdle to the journalism that's in the paper. He frequently suggests ideas that would cost the newspaper heavy investments with little if any return. On all of this, his heart is in the right place. All of his ideas are built around the notion of doing good.
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Trouble is, if we or any other news organization followed his suggestions, we would be out of business, there would be no newspaper and there would be no journalistic content.
There's an organized online blackout today by protesters who oppose online piracy laws.
In many respects, the underlying sentiment for some of those protesters -- that the Internet should be a wide-open resource where all information is free -- follows the same line of reasoning as my kindhearted relative. It ignores the reality that much of that information is the product of someone's work.
The logical end of that line of reasoning would be a society in which all of our journalism, all of our literature, all of our photography, all of our music, all of our films would be produced by unpaid volunteers, created essentially by hobbyists.
I recognize there are flaws in the legislative proposals on online piracy. This shouldn't be misconstrued as an endorsement of the current legislation.
But as someone working in an industry that is threatened in part by online pirates who feed off the work of others -- as someone who cares about journalism that contributes to our well-being but costs money to do -- I am not boycotting the Web today.
I'm interested in your thoughts.
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