The Age of “Free” Information: Is It Falling, Or Did It Never Exist?

26/11/2018

A newspaper’s primary source of income has been advertising since the beginning. Papers are not free to produce, and they had to make money somehow. With the introduction of the internet, a lot of information, including journalism, has become more readily accessible, and for a long while was free. But can a site that makes its money from corporate advertising really be considered “free”?

I don’t often browse Fairfax Media sites (such as SMH, Brisbane Times, The Age, etc.), but their sites have for a long time been riddled with advertisements. The Sydney Morning Herald, on top of that, had a paywall – if you wished to read more than 30 articles a month, you had to pay a weekly subscription to gain access. This was hardly an issue, as their other sites had most of the same content and did not have a paywall – until recently. My dad noticed this the other day and mentioned it to me, and sure enough, Brisbane Times now has the same restrictions. So not only are the sites plastered with ads, but you have to pay for the privilege to see them.

As mentioned, money does have to be made to keep the company running, and this is not unique to Australia’s media landscape – a number of prolific US papers like WaPo or NYT are even more limited on free views. But when access to information on current events is such an integral part of understanding the world’s daily motions, having it hidden behind a paywall seems like a betrayal.

But a subscription would be worthwhile if that site was independent (I have linked a few sites previously, and will include them at the end of this piece too), but many of these blocked sites are not. The New York Times, for example, are awfully critical of Trump – for good reason. But they tend to omit or downplay certain events. Yemen is the perfect example. Khashoggi’s death brought much needed international scrutiny to America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and their involvement in Yemen, but before and even now, coverage has been dismal in comparison. Here in Australia, commercial news stations and companies like Fairfax appear to be no friends of the Coalition, but their criticisms tend to be superficial. Compare that to the hounding of any wrongdoing carried out by opposing parties or groups, and you have your example of corporate bias.

Fairfax’s journalism has been slowly devolving the last few years. By no means are they a bad source of news, but they are not worth paying for. Others like the Guardian and Al Jazeera, who sport ads, do not require subscription (although the Guardian constantly begs you for donations). My favourite sites are those who have no advertising anywhere on their sites, and rely solely on donations and support from independent people and the public. Some of the most informative media I have seen has come from small groups dedicated to giving viewers quality content. You do not have to pay to see their sites or videos, but you would not feel bad doing so because there is no chance of being let down.

Information has never been free, be it with the price of bias via advertising money, subscription fees, or reliance on donations, but the difference in the content produced is quite profound. Sadly, more are falling into the habit of both advertising and requesting fees to view their sites. Below is a list of reliable sources that are free, unless you wish to support them.

News:

Democracy Now!

CounterPunch

Rights Groups:

Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch

Australian YouTubers:

The Juice Media (a brilliant group that makes satire videos)

This Labor shill of a man (just kidding, he makes a lot of stuff, but his political videos are quite good)

3 thoughts on “The Age of “Free” Information: Is It Falling, Or Did It Never Exist?

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