It’s been an expensive week for journalists at the Standard-Examiner.
Here’s just a sampling of the stuff reporters, photographers and editors ended up having to pay for in the last week or so:
• Reporter Mitch Shaw had to pay for day care for his 23-month-old daughter.
• Executive editor Greg Halling had to pay for internet access at his home.
• Data reporter Sheila Wang had to pay for her food at the supermarket this week.
“They make me pay for it every week,” she lamented. “And also, I had to pay for dog food — why isn’t that free?”
• Reporter Tim Vandenack had to pay for glue and ice cream. Glue, because his daughter wanted to make homemade “slime” and needed glue to do it. And the ice cream? “Because we didn’t have anything sweet in the house,” Tim said.
• Managing editor Anne Christnovich had to buy $80 shoes for her dog. After a trip to the veterinarian for sores on Dasha’s paws (a visit that wasn’t free either, incidentally), Anne learned her pup has extremely sensitive feet.
“They honestly cost more than the shoes I’ve bought for myself in the past two years,” she said. “Combined.”
• News clerk Amanda Johnson had to pay for the gas she put in her vehicle. She also had to buy her groceries, including half-and-half for her coffee.
“I cannot have coffee without my half-and-half,” she said.
• News editor Kyle Hansen had to buy a package of rubber washers to fix his broken lawnmower.
• Digital producer Jessica Kokesh says she ended up having to pay for quite a few goods and services in the past week — including tickets to see the new “Avengers: Infinity War” movie, food from both Jimmy John’s and Del Taco, and coffee.
• Education reporter Sergio Martínez-Beltrán had to pay for gas in his 2016 Toyota Corolla. Come to think of it, he also ended up having to make the payment on his car.
• Multimedia journalist Ben Dorger had to pay for a new car window to replace the one that got busted out when somebody broke into his car and stole some of his camera equipment — mostly lights and tripods. Oh, and he also had to pay for new lights and tripods.
• Reporter Mark Shenefelt had to pay for a new smartphone after his old one died.
“People couldn’t hear me on my old phone, so I had to run out Monday morning and get a damn new phone,” he said. “I had to pay for it, too, and they are not cheap.”
• Print administrator Ryan Christner had to pay for his Netflix subscription. Go figure.
• News clerk Megan Olsen had to pay for the water that comes out of her faucets at home.
“They should clean our water for free,” she joked. “We shouldn’t have to pay for it.”
• Environmental reporter Leia Larsen had to pay for her breakfast.
“I bought a muffin this morning from Old Grist Mill and they made me pay for it,” she said. “I wanted it for free. I told them, ‘I’ve been coming here for years, can’t I just have this?’”
• Visual journalist Benjamin Zack tried his very first milkshake featuring those famous Bear Lake raspberries. He says it was good, however ...
“They actually had the gall to make me pay for it,” he said. “AND the cheeseburger that I got with it.”
Ben says he didn’t ask if he could have it for free.
“I hadn’t even thought about it,” he admits.
• Faith/good news reporter JaNae Francis says she had to pay for a CAT scan of her liver this past week.
So, did JaNae ask if she could get the procedure for free?
“No. That would be ludicrous,” she said.
Why do I share all of this with you? For two very important reasons: First, to show that the people who report your local news have lives — not to mention expenses — of their own. And second, to point out that the vast majority of the companies we all deal with on a daily basis don’t just give away their products and services for free.
So why should the Standard-Examiner?
A number of readers have taken to the newspaper’s Facebook page to complain that they’re being asked to pay, or even simply register, in order to access stories on our website.
For some odd reason, people have gotten the mistaken idea that news somehow magically gathers itself, and that it should be completely free. But it isn’t free. It’s actually rather expensive to produce — at least, when you do it right.
Back in the good old days, advertisers picked up most of the tab for folks’ news habit, supplemented by newspaper subscription rates. Now, there are fewer advertisers willing to foot that bill. And fewer subscribers.
So here’s how it works today: We spend our days gathering and reporting the news. If you don’t find that information valuable, you’re certainly free to ignore it — or get it somewhere else.
But if you do value the news, it doesn’t seem out of line to ask for a little something in return.
It would be great if we could talk day care centers into watching Mitch Shaw’s daughter at no cost, or convince supermarkets to give Tim Vandenack his glue and ice cream for free, or get theaters to comp Jessica Kokesh’s superhero movie tickets.
But until then, on the question of who pays for the news?
It’s time to put up or shut up.