News and Tribune

Columns

October 16, 2013

VAN HOY: Website changes begin today

Full access starts; News and Tribune shifting to Facebook platform for web comments

— I had a Facebook “discussion” recently with a few people about the past, present and future of journalism.

Opinions differed on the state of journalism, but I think all agreed that the way news is delivered has changed drastically over the past 15 years.

At my first newspaper job in Kokomo in 1998, our website had just started, and we didn’t really think about writing content specifically for the website, and certainly not for smart phones or tablets, which were years away from becoming a primary means for people to consume news.

Most reporters did not take photos, none of ours shot video and the real debate in the newsroom was when to post an article to the website, as to not “scoop ourselves.”

Soon after I started in Kokomo, the newspaper experimented with charging a fee for viewing online content. It didn’t last long, and the newspaper’s site went back to a totally free platform.

Not sticking with the paid-site plan was a mistake, in my opinion, and the belief that newspapers should charge for online access has only grown on me. It costs money to report, produce and post stories, photos, video and columns to the website. The Internet has never really been “free,” and it’s becoming a more expensive venture with the way consumers want news delivered.

Our reporters, photographers, editors and designers work hard every day to deliver content that readers can’t get anywhere else — in the print edition and on our web and mobile sites.

With that in mind, starting today visitors to newsandtribune.com will see a notice informing them of how many articles they have remaining for free before they will need to pay for what we’re calling Total Access.

Subscribers to the print edition will see their rates rise slightly, but they also will get full access to digital content. We must increase our rates to pay for the technology required for us to stay relevant in an ever-changing media world.

Those subscribers will get the print product and online access. They will also have access to an e-subscription, which will look just like the printed product in PDF form. It’s perfect for keeping up with news happening at home in Southern Indiana while you’re away.

Those who have been reading the paper online and don’t pay for any subscription will now need to either subscribe to Total Access, or choose a digital-only option for a couple of dollars less per month.

This is the way of the world — media outlets around the globe are charging for online or mobile access to the valuable content they produce. We hope you’ll continue to find value in the community-based journalism the News and Tribune news organization produces every day.

Those with questions about Total Access or a digital subscription should call our circulation department at 812-206-2107 or 206-2108.

WEB COMMENTS SHIFT TO FACEBOOK

One of the highlights — and lowlights — of my day as an editor is reading and approving reader comments on our articles and columns at newsandtribune.com.

To clarify, it’s really approving most of them and deleting a few others.

Every so often, a reader takes offense to a comment posted on our website. Believe me, some of the ones we don’t approve would shock you. A handful of the comments are just sickening and make me wonder what would possess someone to take the time to make such heartless posts.

There have been comments making fun of an interview subject’s appearance; there have been taunts aimed at high school athletes; there have been threats; and there have even been very negative comments on a person’s obituary listing online.

That’s about as low as it gets.

As many people know, the process can be anonymous if the reader chooses to use a fake name or email address — or no name at all. There’s not any real accountability, but we’ve attempted to manage the system as best as possible and only rarely received complaints.

That doesn’t mean that there’s not a better way.

With that in mind, the News and Tribune is switching today to a Facebook-based system for commenting on our articles and columns. This means that those who wish to comment must have an active Facebook account.

The main benefit of this is less anonymity and more accountability from those leaving comments — something I hope we all can agree is a good thing.

I have no problem with readers making strong comments, but I have always felt it’s best that those comments come with a real person’s name attached to them — just as we require for letters to the editor and Cheers and Jeers submissions. Using Facebook increases the chance of that happening.

Just like always, readers can click on a story at newsandtribune.com and there will be an option to comment on articles and columns. These will not need an editor’s approval, but the comment will show up with the reader’s Facebook account name and profile photo.

As always, the News and Tribune reserves the right to delete any comment it deems necessary for removal.

We hope that readers agree that a move toward accountability is a good one.

— Editor Shea Van Hoy can be reached by email at shea.vanhoy@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-786-5593.

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