The official weblog of the little-poetry-press-that-could, Plan B Press. Specializing in chapbooks, we have published of over 40 books from authors both local and international.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Paying for Information, Literature and Art

So I heard that will start charging a fee soon to view content. As someone who likes to have access to online news, my first reaction, obviously, is to say, "No." However, my rational side quickly steps in, thankfully I have one, and thinks it over a bit.

As a current, yet reluctant, resident of northern Virginia, my local newspaper is the Washington Post. I have never read a Virginia newspaper. There ARE local papers, super local, but nothing close to WaPo. WaPo recently raised its prices. I was a bit stunned to see the daily paper price double. Usually I read the online version. It's the most up to date, I can see older stories that I may have missed from previous days, and there are more interactive features, like chats and polls that would be missed in the paper format. But the paper format still has an allure. I tend to read more of the paper, taking in stories that I might otherwise skip. I can also carry it with me and read it while commuting.

When I was living in Philadelphia, we subscribed to the Inky. That is, until our newspaper deliverer broke one of our front door windows with a particularly fierce throw. Sunday newspapers are heavy, but not THAT heavy. We had a brief subscription to the daily paper, but we could never seem to read it every day. The papers would stack up and by the end of the week we would be recycling whole sections that we had never even gotten to, or conversely we would try to soak up stories that were irrelevant, like theater reviews for shows that had closed or community meetings that were scheduled for yesterday.

I also never really understood the point of having a Daily News and a Philadelphia Inquirer. I realize that the Daily News is more blue collar and the Inky more blue blood. But couldn't the two be combined? OR another thought. WaPo has a free daily version available at train stations and some bus stops called "Express" and it runs pieces that reference stories that are in its mother paper. Kind of an 'if you like THAT, than try THIS!" kind of thing. Philadelphia already has the Metro newspaper, but competition couldn't hurt.'s website is a lot better than it was and I think that it provides a useful resource. However, it's odd that there is a main page, then links to the two completely, utterly, different websites of the sister papers: Inky and Daily News. And the kicker for me? The cover story for is not the same as either of the cover stories for the papers. (sigh)

But the content of these news sources, no matter how fragmented, is still valuable. Philadelphia papers have talented writers, and there is a lot going on culturally, artistically and politically in Philadelphia. There should be a wealth of material. We should be willing to pay for that. But it is about priorities and mindset. Some folks are willing to put down $12 for a sandwich at lunch, but are reluctant to buy an independently made product, like a piece of art, a book, or a performance. These experiences, tangible or not, will last your whole life,.. unlike that sandwich. Paying for your local information, although not as tangible and not as impressionable as more artistic pieces, is also something that shapes you and provides something meaningful. It is a resource. You really do appreciate something more if you pay for it yourself, like a car when you're a teenager or the first clothes you buy for yourself. But can get enough people who are willing to pay for it? I just don't know.

Like a subscription to any other website, such as e-mail, Flickr, etc. it's a matter of priorities. In economically difficult times, it may be hard to warrant a subscription to an online newspaper, a book purchase, or a ticket to a performance, but it can be food for the soul. And we all make choices every day about where our money is going.

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