Why If You Want Freedom, You Shouldn’t Want Free News

In recent years, it became more and more often that I would look through the dozen or so news headlines and not click a single one.  I used to read almost every single story on Google News, but over the past years I noticed that I read fewer and fewer articles. I noticed that the important stories were rarely on the front page of any site, good stories were generally in an email from a friend or shared on a facebook feed. I noticed that the stories that an aggregator put together were little better than what the actual news site posted everyday. I realized that I was tired of the headlines which rarely delivered, I was tired of the ads bombarding me, distracting me from what the story that the headline promised and I was tired of hitting next and being interrupted by a banner ad and video ads blowing up on the screen.

I was also tired of News paper subscription begging, like a music store pushing Britney Spears CD on me that I had no intention of buying for the one song that I would probably never listen to. Worse were the news aggregators, which like the infamous Mixes of the 90’s with the commercials being better than the actual mix.

I wondered what happened. What happened to the news? What happened to the days when one would pick up the paper and sink into it for an hour or two or three, going from one article to the next?
What happened to me reading article after article until I could read no more?
More importantly, what happened to the stories and the analysis?

All these issues crept up so slowly that I didn’t even notice them. They occurred day by day as I read my free news. I began to realize that I would get better news on my ride to work over the radio than on my daily read at the office because the news on my way to work had no ads to interrupt my focus; it had well paid journalists to whom I gladly donated money every year and felt terribly guilty when I didn’t. I realized that entertainment news on NPR was entertaining and news while the entertainment news in print was garbage which I couldn’t click away from fast enough.

The glitz and money that the print chased as it gave away the news brought about it’s own destruction. Print news lost its way. It forgot that the reason why people came to see the ads was for the news, because it was important not because it was scary or had a tagline or a sexy pictures. Sex and violence may have brought out the few and uneducated but the meat that created Hurst, Turner and Scripps was information. Bloggers had information, Daily Beast had information, even Colbert and Jon Stewart had information. They not only had information but they had respect for information. They didn’t treat it like a commodity but as a golden calf, the raison d’etre. They treated it like the guardian of democracy that it is.

Thus, with the leaving of bureaus which cost money but “didn’t bring revenue” because their product was given away, we lost investigators, we lost journalists, we lost photographers. We lost those who forged after gangsters and shady politicians, we lost those who went into war with recorders and cameras while bullets screamed past them and often into them. We lost the people who uncovered lies before lies could hurt us. And so… as these brave men and women were let go, and we day by day like one sick with glaucoma lost our ability to see first in the periphery and slowly until becoming completely blind, we were left to realize in our blindness that while we retained our money, we no longer knew where or with whom we left the wallet. Thus Enron came to be, and 9/11 and Iraq war and the financial crash of 2008. All events that occurred in the darkness of absence of journalism, because our guardians were fired, let go and our corrupt bureaucrats and greediest of capitalist, no longer had the eye of scrutiny to see their deals that would bring about demise after crippling demise.

Whose fault was that? It is hard to say. Partially our fault for accepting these free and empty “news”. Partially the actions of the journalists and newsmen who refused to figure out a way to make money. It was partially the fault of our politicians who refused to help the newsmen who they despised and part the fault of our entrepreneurs who chased other low hanging fruit believing that information is free while selling our privacy to the highest bidder instead of looking to figure out a way to make something that would allow us to put a value on that which is priceless: our press, the real guarantor of our democracy.

This is what I thought of as I read of news agencies closing, of iphones replacing photographers and untrained “citizen” journalists replacing seasoned researchers who were trained to get the necessary answers out of people who did their best to hide them, whose job it was to to avert events which would require “citizen journalists”.

This is what I thought of as I thought of Phittle, long before Phittle came to be. This is what Phittle is. It is a beginning of the end of empty and cheap news. Phittle is my best effort to make news independent again, to make news matter, to make news important and valuable again. Real news is independent, real news is paid for by readers, not by advertisers because independence is freedom. Phittle brings freedom by making news beholden not to advertisers, but to readers. Phittle brings freedom to readers by letting them buy the news they want, when they want it in a way that makes it as easy as it once was when all you had to do was give 10 cents to a paperboy. Phittle for independence, Phittle for choice, Phittle for news.

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