Washington Post Paywalls Might Sacrifice Public-Interest Reporting

Washington Post building back before the web was even a thing. (Flickr Creative Commons: DC Public Library Commons)

Dean Starkman at CJR has a meditation on what will survive when The Washington Post puts up paywalls for its online content.  Weighing sustainability and readability issues, Starkman mourns the possibility that the Post’s recent shows of public-interest feature reporting won’t rake in audience dollars. He offers a page-one profile of a lower-middle class high school student struggling to make it out of her home town.

“[L]et’s face it,” he writes, “the downer subject, and the five screens of copy, all but cry, ‘skip me.’  It had other obstacles to popularity. It’s written in newspaper-feature-ese, so some of the writing might seem strained, depending on your taste.  I couldn’t find it on my mobile phone, either on the Post’s mobile app or via my browser.  The piece is economics-statistics-free–a smart editorial decision, but it doesn’t leave much room for interactivity.”

Starkman notes that type of public interest reporting is important because it connects elite readers with people and stories they would otherwise never know about. But it also takes months to report and comes, therefore, with a hefty price tag.

About Michael Juliani

Michael Juliani is a senior studying Print and Digital Journalism at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He's a senior news editor and executive producer for Neon Tommy and an associate editor and contributor for the Online Journalism Review. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Huffington Post, among other places.