The Price of Democracy

The New York Times today has an article about the life expectancy of Russian investigative reporters. All too many get ambushed and killed with the result that Russians seldom get to hear about corruption in high places.

Our society is creating the same problem but differently. When I handed the clerk five dollars for today’s paper, she said, “It’s six dollars.” I said, “It was five dollars last week.” She said, “It went up on Monday.”

We are killing reporters more politely: the price of a paper goes up and sets in train a series of consequences. I have to ask myself how much I want a Sunday paper. What s the cost/benefit ratio?

We stopped getting a daily paper when we moved away from the city. Nobody will bring us a paper and we aren’t motivated to go get one. But on Sunday we’re out early and the Sunday paper is a pleasant custom. Weekdays, I can read the paper on line. It’s faster because I don’t have to turn pages and glaze past the ads. It’s cleaner because there’s no newsprint to rub off on my fingers. And it costs me nothing. I could do the same on Sunday and a 20% price increase is highly motivating.

But if I don’t pay for a paper, who will pay the reporters? And if the Times can’t pay for investigative reporting, how different will our society be from Russia?

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