Why do we have to pay to keep up with local news?

Published 6:13 pm Tuesday, July 16, 2019

To The Editor:

I realize that this is 2019. I realize that in some markets, newspapers are facing the threat of extinction on a monthly basis.

Free online news websites, both local and national, have undoubtedly presented a decrease in hard copy subscriptions to local publications making it harder for the “little guys” to compete.

As an employee of Bertie County, I proudly serve one of the most economically distressed counties in the State. The Roanoke-Chowan News Herald is one of the only readily available news publications we receive here. Not unlike the other counties within the RC New Herald’s service area.

So that begs the question, why did the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald choose to make their respective website a “pay per article” platform?

It is not uncommon for the “big guys” such as the Washington Post or the New York Times to enact a “pay per article” system considering the difference in income of the citizens, and the population size of their service areas.

However, we are not Washington, D.C. or New York City.

This is not to discount the hard work and journalistic skill that can be found at the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald. We as a county entity lean on both of our local publications for all of our advertising because we know that is how our citizens mainly receive the news that matters to them.

In 2018, one of my colleagues here at the County conducted a county-wide communications survey encompassing just under 300 of our citizens. When asked how they receive information about Bertie County? A total of 43% of the respondents reported that their main connection to the local government and their communities came from the newspaper.

I feel it is safe to infer that a solid portion of those same respondents were accessing their local news via the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald’s website on a regular basis.

It is my hope that those with the power to return the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald website to a free platform consider doing so. It is one thing for our citizens to be economically distressed due to no fault of their own. It is another to limit their access to their local news, in any way, because of the inability to pay.

Sarah Tinkham