Our newspaper is dedicated to fair reporting

Executive editorMarch 3, 2013 

Today, a Q&A excerpted from The News Tribune reader mailbag:

Keith in Puyallup: How much discussion is there in the news and editorial offices of the TNT about the so-called “left-wing” bias of today’s mainstream/cable news media? ... If so, why does the claim of “media bias” persist?

My response: Yes, bias, balance, fairness and representing different points of view are the topics of daily conversation in our newsroom. It comes up as we’re deciding what to cover, how to cover it and which reporter to assign. It comes up at least as often in our editorial board conversations and decisions.

I have been part of numerous training sessions on these topics during my career.

However, over the past decade or so, I have found more and more readers looking for what we call “journalism of affirmation,” or news that affirms their political beliefs rather than news that strives to cut down the middle. Cable news outlets leaning either to the left or the right provide that. We often hear from people expecting us to provide the same. When we don’t, one side accuses us of being too liberal while the other side accuses us of being too conservative.

We do our best every day to avoid bias in our news. That said, we’re not perfect, and I appreciate hearing from readers regarding their concerns on specific stories. As you might imagine, it’s difficult to respond to generalities.

(I invited Keith to join our 3 p.m. news meeting any weekday to see how we select stories for our front page.)

Nancy in Lake Tapps: I have subscribed to The News Tribune for over 20 years and I am very upset that you think it’s somehow OK to squeeze more money out of your loyal readers by charging us for online subscriptions as well.

David Zeeck, TNT publisher: What you pay for a print subscription today pretty much pays for the delivery of the newspaper to your home. Everything else – hiring reporters and photographers, hiring the editors who compile their work into a newspaper or digital product, paying for the news services we use, even the printing of the paper – all is paid for by advertising revenue, most of which still comes from print.

There was a time when we did not charge for Internet access to the newspaper’s content. That was when we basically transferred the newspaper content once a day, unchanged, onto the Internet. There were no updates, and nothing that was done specifically for the Web.

Over time, however, more and more people chose to read everything we produce online and pay nothing for it. At the same time, we had to hire people to staff our website on pretty much a 24/7 basis as the expectations for updating the website came to resemble what happens in broadcast news.

Further, in the last couple of years, we’ve had to purchase and maintain numerous applications so that readers can view our content on tablet computers and smartphones.

Because there is no cost of ink and paper, we can offer a virtually unlimited amount of news online. That’s more than a person gets in the print edition of the paper, and partly why it is worth more.

All of that obviously costs a lot of money. If we allowed our reader base to consume all of our news without paying anything, we wouldn’t be in business very long.

For readers who consume fewer than 20 page views on our website each month, there remains no charge. For readers who use our website, our smartphone apps, our replica edition, our tablet apps, or any combination of the above, there is a subscription charge – heavily discounted for print subscribers (about 8 cents per day additional). The cost is about $10 a month for those who subscribe to a digital-only account.

I would guess half of America’s newspapers the size of The News Tribune or larger have gone to digital subscription models. I would expect the remainder to make the change this year.

The Seattle Times just announced it is going to a digital subscription model. They would tell you that they are not charging their print subscribers for the additional digital subscription. However, their basic subscription price is already $26 a month, nearly 30 percent more than our rate for a combined print and digital subscription.

Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434 karen.peterson@thenewstribune.com @TNTkpeterson

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