Monday, February 19, 2007

Information Freedom

You have probably heard this verse "And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. (John 8:32)." This is one of the reasons we are doing Easy access to information is necessary to get at the truth. Easy access to the truth is absolutely necessary for freedom to flourish.

Much of the research on any issue is done over the internet today. You can wake up at 3:00 am and check out the facts on that idea you just had. No need to wait until the library opens the next morning. No reason to trek through the cold and spend hours searching the stacks.

The Standard Times, our major local news paper, used to have their complete archive on line back to 1996 for free. This was a great service for politically active or just interested individuals. Use it to research who said what about the sales tax or tennis court or proposed prison. It was quick and easy.

Some time this year, the paper changed their web presence and services. They added some blog like capabilities so readers can comment on articles right there, and they are occasionally publishing these comments like they used to run Speak Your Mind, a great way to get reader feed back.

They also changed their Archives. If you use the basic search, you get any article from the first of the year. Any article older than that requires you to search their archive separately. The titles and first paragraph comes up, but if you click for the full article you are redirected to a site ran by You will be presented with a price list that starts with $2.95 for a single article, and ranges up to $1995.00 for a one year, 1000 article max annual subscription (they do have a $995 plan that allows 500 articles a year.) Talk about sticker shock.

If you go directly to newsbank, you can save yourself considerable money. It still costs $2.95 if you just want a single article, but if you sign up as a researcher or free lance writer (not sure about other plans) you can get 50 articles a month for $19.95, which they will bill monthly. This access also allows access to a number of papers that are signed up for their news library service. Still a bit high, but affordable.

I understand that print media such as newspapers are facing financial challenges. They are struggling to make money off their articles, etc.. A reasonable charge for past articles, if you can't figure out how to pay for views through advertising, is also reasonable but lets be reasonable. The New York Times has free registration which allows access to current news and a significant part of their articles. They have a full access service called times select that is only $7.95 per month or $49.95 a year. It is hard for me to swallow that Standard Times articles cost that much more than articles from the premier American paper.

In a way, I find this a step backwards. It limits article access to those with deep pockets. NewsBank seems to be archiving a lot of regional and small town papers. With that number of papers they could charge a more modest fee and actually make more money.

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