September 02, 2016

Newspapers' latest slouch toward Gomorrah — paid letters

As in paid letters to the editor, courtesy of the Bismarck Tribune. (I saw it via a Facebook friend, via Romanesko.)

Here it is:
The Tribune will charge a $50 advertising fee for endorsement letters for candidates and measures. Political letters can be sent to the same addresses as above, but writers will be contacted to provide $50 by credit card. The same rules of length apply to political letters.
First, what exactly is an endorsement letter? Is Grandma Midge writing in to say "I think City Councilman X has done a good job the last three years" an endorsement, if he's running for re-election?

Astroturfers will pay your $50; real people will stop writing letters to the editor about local candidates.

Astroturfers like Keybridge, notorious ghost-writer of op-eds, with whom I am professionally as well as personally familiar. (It spam-emails nondaily and daily papers alike.)

Maybe there's a way around it, like there is around cheaper paywalls. One Romanesko commenter notes:
Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but it sounds like the paper is charging for letters that endorse a candidate or measure, so not all political letters. Which makes me wonder if letters railing against a candidate can run for free, since they're not an endorsement.
Well, it's worth a try.

Another notes the reality.
And so this is how it all ends. Not with a whimper or a bang, but with rampant stupidity.
Geez, I need a change of careers.

Plus, if at, let's say, $200 a year, one reader cancels a subscription, four paid letters just treads water offsetting the subscription.

Bismarck is NOT a herring; it's a stinking lutefisk.

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