A Tale of Two Internets

CNN, Fox News, Breitbart, the Huffington Post, ESPN, and The Intercept all share one great inalienable quality: they are all free. On the contrary, to access richer news such as the Financial Times, New York Times, the Atlantic, the National Review, the Economist, the Athletic, and the Wall Street Journal, all require a paid subscription. These sources are considered richer due to the substance of the pieces available, the thought-provoking natures of their articles, the deeper dives into stories, and even the mere vocabulary used. These differences account for some of the grave polarization in the Western World. Internet paywalls and clickbaits, wrongful business theories erected in the 21st century to mend the ailing profits of the journalism industry, must be humanely reprimanded before the United States becomes an entirely two-tiered intellectual nation.

It is not foolish to say the media shapes perspectives and political views, but also distracts. Indeed, the left-wing media consistently airing news about President Trump’s affairs with Stormy Daniels were severe distractions from his political agenda, and, likewise, the amplification of the nothing-balloon that was the “Benghazi Scandal” and “PizzaGate” for Secretary Hillary Clinton played up right-wing views founded upon conspiracies. However ludicrous these theories can sound to the educated, wealthier citizen, there is no other side to these theories for those who do not pay to bypass the internet paywall. And people tend to not read or view opinions that generally differ from their views, with or without paywalls, so its not like a Fox viewer will easily flip channels to CNN to learn Pizzagate is a conspiracy, for example.

So what’s the reasoning behind why free news sources will air faulty headlines but the paid news sources won’t? From my research, I see it being the profit model. Your free sources, such as Fox and CNN, live off advertisement revenue. They need the clicks so that they can make ends meet and pay their workers. Paid sources such as the New York Times and Economist, have more than one income channel. These sources also charge for subscriptions in addition to advertisement money, so they need not to just have flashy headlines to make money, but they rely on monthly readers. This allows for NYT journalists to focus on objective and richly-researched articles, as opposed to clickbait headlines.

This is not to take away from the intellect of some of the work on CNN and Fox. I find myself watching Chris Cuomo on CNN many nights, and I did enjoy watching Chris Wallace host town halls for Democratic Presidential Candidates on Fox & Bret Bauer whenever he was on at my gym. I also had a family tradition growing up of watching Anderson Cooper on New Year’s Eve, and these people helped shape some of my views. My issue is when CNN is giving airtime to Stormy Daniels’ attorney and when Fox is pushing Sean Hannity & his racist guests daily. I have an issue when these people can get prime time slots because they are “entertainers” and not journalists, although many assume they are by affiliation. This lets them lie on live television without repercussion. If conservatives want to strengthen their views on merit, I suggest reading parts of the National Review and Wall Street Journal (although I espouse their editorial team). If liberals want to expand their views, the New York Times and the Atlantic are part of my daily reads. If business-friendly centrists wish to pay for objective, wallet-focused news, then I offer an endorsement of the Economist and Financial Times. Free television has some wonderful content, but the internet paywall is dividing American intellect and leading to polarization.

Paywalls have a host of their own issues also. Even if they wanted to be free, how could they sustain their profit margins? I would suggest raising their advertisement rates and perhaps offering select paid options. The New York Times could easily let anybody read their main news for free, but coerce a membership to get access to their cooking content. The FT and Economist could do the same with access to live interviews with some of the spectacular interviewees which they entertain. Although this would not solve polarization, I believe it would be a step in the right direction and open American discourse to newer, deeper prose. Americans who pay for sources cannot evade polarization by any means. If I am a conservative paying for the National Review and Wall Street Journal, why would I want to pay hundreds for a NYT subscription to read nearly symmetrical facts and a liberal opinions page? Political polarization is a topic I am not attributing solely to paywalls, rather intellectual polarization.

Through my work, I get access to nearly all of the paid sources for free, and I read some other paid sources at my local Barnes & Nobles for free on weekends (which I suggest everybody do). I find myself reading CNN and Fox, however, around that post-lunch work slump when I need a good laugh. Although I would not want to forfeit that, I do plead that free sources curtail their current work from the road to clickbait to meaningful, succinct reads. Both free sources have short articles, which the larger public appreciates, compared to lengthy ones behind paywalls. I also urge paid sources to forgo their pay-to-read models, as it is doing a disservice to folks who cannot afford to spend money on something so tedious. No wonder news political endorsements from large papers don’t mean much anymore, as the NYT recently learned after Iowa Democratic Caucuses.

 

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