'Newspaper Junkie' Obama Signals Support for Pay Walls

By: E&P Staff Describing himself as a "big newspaper junkie," President Barack Obama told editors from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade in Toledo, Ohio, that the industry must find a way to charge for the news it puts on the Internet.

"Journalistic integrity, you know, fact-based reporting, serious investigative reporting, how to retain those ethics in all these different new media and how to make sure that it's paid for, is really a challenge," Obama said, according to an account in Sunday's Blade by Special Assignments Editor Dave Murray. "But it's something that I think is absolutely critical to the health of our democracy."

Without explicitly endorsing a paywall for newspaper online content, the president said, "What I hope is that people start understanding if you're getting your newspaper over the Internet, that's not free and there's got to be a way to find a business model that supports that."

Murray reported Obama was noncommittal about recently introduced legislation to aid newspapers, including the "Newspaper Revitalization Act" written by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) that would allow newspapers to become non-profit 501(c)(3) corporations with the tax advantages of that structure.

"I haven't seen detailed proposals yet, but I'll be happy to look at them," Obama told the editors.

He added the work of newspapers cannot be replaced by opinion blogs.

"I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding," Obama said.


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