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Online pay walls will disengage readers

By Andrea Ordonez, Columnist

In contrast to past years, the accessibility to the New York Times on the Hofstra campus has diminished. Free copies were once available near the library and student center, but have now been limited to Dempster Hall and the Honors College office. Access to the Times has become even more difficult with the pay wall they have now installed online.

The country's fragile economic state has not been able to complement online journalism's rapid growth. With blogs and citizen journalism becoming even more prominent, and the demise of print journalism, questions are continually raised about how to fund publications that expand their presence online.

A little over a year ago, Newsday decided to set up a pay wall for its online content, making it one of the first non-business newspapers to do so. According to the New York Observer the pay wall required subscribers to pay $5 a week, or $260 a year, for full access to The site, which went through a nearly $4 million renovation, had only 35 subscriptions in its first three months.

Newsday's move to an online pay wall seemed to forecast what was to come for major publications. The Wall Street Journal set up a pay wall, where all-access cost $1.99 per week. I grew up reading the print versions of Wall Street Journal back in Texas, and was incredibly disappointed by being forced to pay for content. Because Hofstra did not have the physical publication readily available, I moved to the Times.

The Times set the pay wall online in the middle of March of this year. It allows print subscribers free access to all articles on its website, but limits non-subscribers the ability to read only 20 articles per month. Once you reached the 20 article limit, content is barred unless you become an online subscriber. The fees vary, depending on whether the subscriber wants only online access to articles, or both print and online.

As a print journalism major, I frequently visit the locations where the print version of the Times can be found on campus.  However, I have always been well aware of the gradual demise of print. I have started to use online publication websites to read articles more often, because content online tends to have multimedia features.

Major publications installing pay walls for content may appear reasonable from an economic standpoint. With print no longer generating great revenue, media have had to look in other places to create a profit.

However, for a college student like myself, these pay walls are such a pain. I already pay roughly $200 a semester for textbooks; paying another $50-$100 on a newspaper publication that essentially serves as another "textbook" of sorts is completely out of the question.

I am amazed by the increasing accessibility to news online and by the growing number of media outlets available. However, having to pay to be an "informed citizen," particularly at a young age, can produce weak results in the future.

Today's young people are not civically engaged in terms of politics and current events. How much more less engaged will they be when all news outlets set up pay walls? Even to a greater degree, what will happen to this generation when social media sites set up pay walls? This might seem impossible now, but with the rate of news publications turning to pay walls, we may have to start paying to use Facebook or Twitter in the near future.

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