Inaccessibility of Information

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Image Credit: Flickr

Brian Kataro, Editor in Chief

We’ve all been there: Searching online for sources to start off an essay and find the absolute perfect article to match your thesis… But it’s behind a subscription service. Then, you’re forced to find a way around the message saying to “Subscribe for only $XX a month, or $XXX a year!”, find another article that doesn’t exactly match what your essay is about, or be forced to pay out of pocket for a single-use article.

Every day more and more articles are locked behind paywalls and subscription services. Newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, etc., have the vast majority of their news hidden behind a payment that can range from $150 to over $300 per year. Considering that nearly all assignments require copious amounts of evidence from credible sources, as well as multiple types of sources almost always needed, attempting to use exclusively highly funded research and resources would very quickly break the bank for many students. 

However, the influx of privatized information doesn’t only act as a barrier for students, but it also accounts for a lack of access to some types of public information and inquiry. After all, if over 76% of newspapers in the United States have paywalls, that holds back a great deal of information from the masses of people who are intimidated or cannot afford a weekly, monthly, or yearly subscription; taking into account the countless subscriptions people already have to pay for, the total cost soon adds up to an overwhelming amount.

As a result, the vast majority of people resort to using free news programs and websites — however, those come with their own complications. Since they’re free, the sites need to use advertisements, commercials, and sponsorships in order to stay broadcasting and keep up websites. These sponsorships and advertisements can often influence the programs on screen. For instance, a news program might not run a story about the troubling effects of using vacuum cleaners if one of their advertisers sold those exact same cleaners. While of course the media has the final say on stories, some desperate outlets with few advertisers may be fearful of losing their sponsors and have nobody to fall back on.

Altogether, the commonality of news and information behind paywalls is worrying, given that it limits the total amount of information available to the public. Oftentimes, crucial and news-breaking findings are concealed behind a subscription that not all are willing or able to pay for.