This week, NCPR is passing the hat. We’re busking, singing for our suppers, passing the plate.
A couple of years ago, I met a guy at a party who said he thought journalism — and really, all cultural stuff — should be free. Money corrupts the whole enterprise, he argued.
And really, that ethic dominates a lot of thinking the internet. People have gotten used to the idea that things like the In Box should be, well, gratis. They should spring up like flowers.
I asked that guy at the party what he did for a living and for the sake of concealing his identity, I’ll fudge a little and say that he was a plumber.
“A plumber?” I replied. “So great, I need some work done in my house. Will you come fix my toilet — for free?”
He looked at me with a puzzled and even slightly indignant expression.
Why on earth would he fix my toilet for free? Why would he offer his decades of experience and training without any kind of compensation?
The truth is that the In Box isn’t a naturally occurring phenomenon. This isn’t a streetcorner outside the post office, or a bench in the park. (Not that those things are really free, either.)
The In Box is — boiled down to its essence — an act of professional journalism, where factual ideas and considered opinions are offered, and the debate that follows is moderated.
We work hard to provide you with the kind of service — information, conversation, convenience, a respectful forum — that keeps you engaged and coming back.
And thousands of you do just that. You choose to come here.
You take part in the In Box week after week, sharing your ideas, your opinions, your arguments. Working with you on this project has become one of the big joy’s of my day.
But here’s the thing: Shocking as it sounds, at the end of that work day, I want to pay my mortgage. I want to feed my family. And yes, I want to be able to pay the guy who fixes my toilet.
(Trust me, you don’t want me fixing my own toilet…)
The truth is, I want my work to be respected and (yes) compensated, just as I respect and compensate the people who fill my car with gas, or drop of the newspaper at my door.
I get it. It’s still shocking to some people to see an open, frank and transparent discussion of money in the context of a thing like journalism, or public radio, or a blog like the In Box.
Here’s my answer to that: Better this kind of transparency, and honesty, than the alternative.
Indeed, unless you’re willing to participate financially in the future of this blog, I think you face two possible futures.
First, there will only be blogs that are paid for or subsidized by other people, by corporations, or by special interest groups. Often their motivations and agendas will be obscure.
Secondly, there will be blogs that aren’t professional, that lack a journalist’s ethic. Those are the blogs where people shout rather than discuss, and flame rather than engage.
So that’s why I have absolutely no reservations about putting the hat in your hands. I’m saying as bluntly as I can that the right thing for you to do is pay NCPR a little bit — how about $10 or $20?
You would pay your plumber right? Or your pizza delivery guy? So call 1-877-388-6277 right now and tell them you read the In Box and want to support it.
Or click here and make your payment, and be sure to mention the In Box.
Because this is the In Box, I’ll also offer this challenge: If you’re not willing to contribute, why not? What’s your logic for using a service that you’re not willing to help pay for? Comments welcome below.
Tags: public radio