The financial future of The Washington Post now stands assured, thanks to my new $14.99 per month digital subscription. After years of sponging off of the publication’s free content — and switching browsers or devices when I’d consumed my share of free articles — see? I know the tricks — I decided to cough up the recurring monthly charge.
What prompted this reversal? While I’ve known since the beginning of the Web that creation of quality content isn’t free, I was comfortable in my hypocrisy on a national level, knowing that I did subscribe to innumerable local publications.
What changed on a national basis was the recurring line of attack against the “fake-news” press by the Trump Administration, and his branding as “the enemy of the people” major national media outlets such as CNN and The New York Times.
Add presidential adviser Stephen Bannon’s tirade that the press should “keep its mouth shut,” as well as adviser Stephen Miller’s warning that President Trump’s national-security actions “will not be questioned.”
Add also the petty slights of major media outlets by press secretary Sean Spicer, and attack after attack from other administration officials, and The Washington Post’s monthly profit-and-loss statement will now show an additional $14.99.
It’s a drop in the bucket, of course, and The Washington Post seems on an upward trend all on its own, with plans to hire dozens of additional reporters. The paper is profitable and seems to be reinvigorated under Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder who acquired the publication three years ago.
But for me, the $14.99 is a statement of support for quality journalism on the national level, for journalism that will not “keep its mouth shut,” for journalism that will challenge the centers of power no matter how nasty and loathsome the attacks.
It’s happened before, of course. Vice President Spiro Agnew once voiced words crafted by speechwriter William Safire describing the press as “nattering nabobs of negativism.”
Many would agree with that sentiment, and no one should believe that I or any other journalist believes that the press is perfect.
Far from it. At our little publication alone, we are constantly trying to improve. When we make a mistake — and we do, far too often — we try to correct it promptly.
But many confuse a prime mission of the press — to hold the powerful accountable — for negativism. A free and independent press is essential for a democracy. The Washington Post understands this very well, having recently added the tagline, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”
It is not the function of the press to serve as the mouthpiece of the Administration. It is not the function of the press to blindly accept White House assurances that no improper contacts occurred between Trump campaign officials and the Russians. It is not the responsibility of the press to keep its mouth shut.
It is the responsibility of the press to ferret out corruption, but to do so fairly and accurately.
And it’s my responsibility — and that of concerned citizens — to support quality journalism financially.
Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942, 970-232-3133 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.