Pay to know – AJC restricts content on new super

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt March 27, 2014
Austin School Superintendent, the leading candidate to replace superintendent Erroll Davis.

Austin Independent School District Superintendent, the leading candidate to replace superintendent Erroll Davis.

UPDATE: A reporter from the AJC sent me a note directing me to the link with the full story. Outstanding. It’s a good read, too. To read it, click here.

Here’s my original post …

Forgive me a moment of editorializing, but on this point I simply must.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s pay wall annoys me. I want journalism to become a viable 21st century business, but you can’t do it by trying to reset the market conditions to 1995. Free content is here to stay, for better or for worse, and that genie is not going back into the bottle.

Readers don’t get to make the call about what goes behind that pay wall and what doesn’t. I thought it was awfully Christian of the folks at AJC to take down their pay wall during the snow storm back in January. But apparently you need an act of God to make that happen.

Hiring a new school superintendent? You’ll have to pay for that.

By now, people know that Meria Carstarphen of the Austin, Texas Independent School District is the leading choice to replace outgoing Superintendent Erroll Davis. You could get that from any number of news sources. In fact, WSB-TV, owned by the same company as AJC, has a short but informative article about it. And what do we have on AJC?

One sentence and a link to paid content.

The AJC is charging for access to breaking news about the woman who may be the next public school superintendent in Atlanta, a school district where 76 percent of students in 2011 were eligible for free and reduced lunch.

And how did we get to this current pivotal moment with a potential new superintendent waiting in the wings?

Oh yeah: because Beverly Hall resigned after the AJC’s brilliant series (also behind a pay wall) on cheating in Atlanta schools. After she left, Superintendent Erroll Davis stepped in as caretaker until a permanent replacement could be found.

The AJC claims it is protecting kids in a poor, urban school district with its hard hitting investigations into school cheating. Then it takes those hard-hitting investigations, along with other public school news, and sticks it behind a pay wall.

I think the folks at the AJC have lost touch with who they’re really looking out for.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Lori Leary

    Oh, now you’ve done it.

  • I don’t know that the pay wall is going to be a viable long term strategy. I see their content redistributed over message boards, emails, etc. I can concede a certain amount of VIP info that would justify a pay wall – sports, business to business content, and exclusive interviews spring to mind. But the finalist to be the next superintendent of APS? I don’t see why we need to throw up barriers to accessing that kind of information in a timely fashion, especially pointless ones. Shining a light on something doesn’t do much good if you’re doing it inside a vault.

    • Sharron

      And the info is now FREE!

  • Bee Gee

    The pay wall stuff changes with the tides. I’ve had stories published in the AJC that were behind a pay wall at first, then a few days later they show up on the free site. It’s happened quite a few times with my articles.

  • Wisenheimer Smartipants


    One of the requirements of a democracy is an informed citizenry and the AJC’s paywall helps keep Georgians uninformed.

    Deciding what goes behind the paywall is also subject to editorializing.

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