Columnist Says ‘Newspapers Should Go Offline’

By: Dave Astor

Should newspapers abandon the Web? That’s one of three provocative “cures for ailing newspapers” suggested by Ted Rall in his latest column, though he doubts his suggestions would be tried.

“Newspapers should go offline,” writes Rall, who does a syndicated weekly column in addition to his editorial cartoons. “If the last decade has proven anything, it’s that you can’t charge for a product — in this case, news — that you give away. So stop! All the members of the Newspaper Association of America should shut down their Web sites.

“At the very least, papers ought to charge online readers twice as much as for print subscriptions — searchability must be worth something. Want news? Buy a ‘dead tree’ newspaper.”

Rall also says every newspaper article should be copyrighted. “Radio and TV outlets that currently lift their news reports out of newspapers — without forking over a cent — would have to hire reporters or pay papers a royalty,” he writes.

His third suggestion: “Cut off the wire services. Nowadays an article written for a local paper can get picked up by a wire service, which sells it for a ridiculously low reprint fee to other papers and Web sites like Google….”

The columnist acknowledges the “problems” with his suggestions, noting they “only work if every paper follows them” and that “the ‘information wants to be free’ mantra, once the cry of wacko libertarians, has become state religion.”

Rall’s weekly column is syndicated to online clients by the Universal Press Syndicate-affiliated uclick and self-syndicated to print clients.

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists president-elect does his cartoons for Universal, and also serves as acquisition and development editor at United Media.

Rall’s complete column can be seen here.

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