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Question of the day

Thursday, Oct 6, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sun-Times

In recent years, Chicago has proven its reputation as an exceptional news town — one in which residents care passionately about its future and invest in its success. Our city has become known as a hub of innovation for local news. This year alone we’ve seen a number of great examples: City Bureau’s Documenters program, which trains people to document public meetings, is expanding nationally. Block Club Chicago is building an investigative reporting team. South Side Weekly and the Hyde Park Herald merged to form a South Side–focused nonprofit newsroom.

And in January, the Chicago Sun-Times became a nonprofit newsroom as part of Chicago Public Media.

The nation is watching what happens here to see whether Chicago can be a model for how to defend and rebuild local news. And it’s all thanks to you, the people of Chicago.

Because of you, our great city has a real chance to buck the alarming trend of local news shrinking nationwide. Between late 2019 and May 2022, 360 newspapers closed in the U.S., according to a June report from the Medill School of Journalism. A quarter of the country’s newspapers have closed since 2005, the study found, with two more closing every week — and Illinois has lost the most news outlets of any state during this period. The industry has seen a 70% decline in newsroom employees since 2006. The research also shows that local news really matters. When communities lose their local news coverage, they experience more corruption, pollution and poverty, and even experience a decline in voter turnout.

As a reader of the Chicago Sun-Times, you turn to us for the news you need to thrive. For timely, accurate and fairly reported stories on the issues that matter most. For stories that celebrate and honor the members of our community, from victories on the field to remembrances of lives well lived. Our journalists care about your community because it’s our community, too. And we strongly believe that everyone in the Chicago area should have access to the news, features and investigations we produce, regardless of their ability to pay.

So today, we are dropping our paywall and making it possible for anyone to read our website for free by providing nothing more than an email address. Instead of a paywall, we are launching a donation-based digital membership program that will allow readers to pay what they can to help us deliver the news you rely on.

* The Question: Your thoughts on the Sun-Times dropping its paywall and moving to an optional contribution program?

          Click here to help buy presents for LSSI foster kids!

31 Comments
  1. - Michelle Flaherty - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 2:58 pm:

    Thank you for the reminder to stop paying for a subscription.


  2. - MisterJayEm - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 2:59 pm:

    “Your thoughts on the Sun-Times dropping its paywall and moving to an optional contribution program?”

    As an S-T subscriber, this news makes me very happy that we just renewed.

    – MrJM


  3. - NotRich - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:01 pm:

    Haven’t bought/read a Chicago paper in over 10 years. Don’t care


  4. - Lt Guv - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:01 pm:

    Just like the Guardian. Great move.


  5. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:07 pm:

    Good move into the Public Broadcasting model. I hope it works.


  6. - New Day - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:07 pm:

    People should pay for high quality journalism. They’ve gotten used to it all over. Pulling the plug just because BEZ is well funded is a bad idea.


  7. - Dysfunction Junction - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:08 pm:

    I think this will be the beginning of guilt-based pop-up ads a’ la The Guardian and Wikipedia, which remind visitors of how many articles they have accessed in the last week/month/year/etc. It’s a solid trade-off, and may even increase revenues at the S-T. Here’s to increased synergy between the Sun-Times and WBEZ.


  8. - Back to the Future - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:08 pm:

    Been reading the Sun Times regularly since I was a paperboy many many years ago.
    The subscription price was a real deal for how the newspaper has come along over the past few years. Admittedly the Times did hit some tough spots, but unlike newspapers around the country it survived.
    Hope this new idea works, but going to stick to the subscription model as long as I can. Will happily switch to the new model at some point.


  9. - Lulu in Lake - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:08 pm:

    This is exactly the move I was hoping to see. It’s smart.


  10. - AlfondoGonz - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:08 pm:

    While I appreciate that the internet has crushed the periodical industry, there has always been something unseemly to me about forcing people to pay to be informed after teasing them with a headline.

    I get that that is hard to reconcile with the reality of how things used to be, from the classic newsies shouting on street corners to papers on display offering shocking headlines in large, all caps print.

    I don’t know why paywalls feel different, but to me, they do.

    I like this and hope it works.


  11. - Vote Quimby - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:12 pm:

    I like getting my news from a variety of sources, so the more free (or free-will) ones out there… the better. I often get frustrated when I scan google news and click on a story with a paywall.


  12. - Tood Aloo - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:15 pm:

    I like it and will support it generously. Rich, you might want to consider the non profit business model.


  13. - West Sider - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:15 pm:

    I already subscribe- don’t plan to change.


  14. - Lefty Lefty - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:15 pm:

    As a monthly subscriber, I welcome the accessibility and will also continue to subscribe.

    Also - I let my Daily Herald subscription run out after the Proft nonsense at the end of September. I was locked out literally the next day. I just don’t see that as a good business model in the current media landscape. Even the WSJ let me read the editorial about how Illinois schools are garbage. (Maybe it lets us lurkers read their editorial words of wisdom for free all the time, but I don’t know unless Capt. Fax makes me read one).


  15. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:15 pm:

    ===you might want to consider===

    lol

    Hard, hard pass.


  16. - High Socks - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:30 pm:

    This works for Wikipedia and it should. I don’t feel guilted to throw wikipedia some cash when they ask because I use it all the time and it’s a quality resource. Same with some other pay as you go sites.


  17. - The Velvet Frog - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:40 pm:

    Great news. I hadn’t subscribed but I’m likely to read it now and become a supporter.


  18. - Boomerang - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:45 pm:

    A positive outcome that I hope works and catches on. I’ll certainly turn to the S-T over the Tribune and I’ll likely throw them some bucks here and there.


  19. - Walker - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 3:51 pm:

    Whatever helps them remain in good shape. I feel the same about a side printing business. Good real press is just too valuable to lose.


  20. - Huh? - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 4:00 pm:

    “Hard, hard pass”

    = pontoon boat fuel payment

    :)


  21. - Jerry - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 4:01 pm:

    I remember asking my parents for money so I could go and buy the Chicago Daily News. I never asked but I’m guessing they were happy I was reading something besides comic books.

    The Tribune was like Fox News in the main news section for years….till they changed editors in the 70’s? 80’s?

    FM music stations had news departments as well.

    I’m happy to see this!


  22. - Amalia - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 4:07 pm:

    part of me feels stupid because I get the paper delivered on Sunday and have had on line access as a result with that. but perhaps they can gain more revenue through the clicks. I will still subscribe for Sunday….something about comics and crosswords feels better on paper….and who knows, maybe the price of that will drop.


  23. - Joe Bidenopolous - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 4:41 pm:

    Love the idea in concept. Concerned it won’t work financially. WBEZ could end up being the one hurt here, and that would be bad. That said, I’m gonna support it in spirit and financially


  24. - Cook Street - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 5:17 pm:

    I just renewed my subscription for $30 for the next year. A real bargain.


  25. - Benjamin - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 5:25 pm:

    I’m a Sunday only subscriber, so this doesn’t make a difference for me personally. But having said that, I hope it works. I really appreciate the S-T’s local journalism.


  26. - cermak_rd - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 5:30 pm:

    signed up. I’ve been missing a local newspaper. I already read NYT & SZ which give me a pretty good view of the world.


  27. - thisjustinagain - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 6:23 pm:

    If local journalism is to survive the demise of paper as a media, it had to do something. The current CST and CT are overpriced and so thin on content it was amazing when I bought a paper a few months back. Newspapers must also restrict opinion to the editorial/commentary pages again, instead of their slanted (almost horizontal in some cases) coverage of events.


  28. - MoralMinority - Thursday, Oct 6, 22 @ 7:22 pm:

    I don’t know how successful the honor system will be in generating revenue, but I think it is admirable they are trying something like that. Paywalls turn a lot of people off. There is little more frustrating than to click on a link to a news story and find that you have to shell out for a subscription that you might never use aside from reading the one article you are interested in. I know news organizations have to make a profit or at least break even to stay in business and pay their employees. Maybe some form of micropayments for each story read would work. I would gladly pay a small amount for access to a single story, but not several bucks for a subscription when I just want to read one thing.


  29. - Flexible One - Friday, Oct 7, 22 @ 3:58 am:

    I think it’s a great move and hope people pay. I have a subscription and will continue to do my part to keep it current.


  30. - SouthSideGT - Friday, Oct 7, 22 @ 7:42 am:

    I dropped my Tribune subscription when they endorsed Bush in 2004. Now I let my ST subscription run out once they were absorbed by Chicago Public Media. Looking seriously at Block Club. Still have the NYT though.


  31. - archenfell - Friday, Oct 7, 22 @ 1:23 pm:

    What surprises me most is the general lack of talking about bias in news sources. It is fine to have a bias, but only so long as you own up to the bias. people are turning to online 3rd party news sources because they aren’t shy about stating their bias (some at any rate).


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