The value of news

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt November 2, 2014
The mural at the Rockyford Bridge at College Ave. on Thursday, April 17, 2014. File Photo by Jonathan Phillips

The mural at the Rockyford Bridge at College Ave. on Thursday, April 17, 2014. File Photo by Jonathan Phillips

News isn’t a widget.

Ideas and information don’t fit neatly into an inventory.

At a newspaper you’re supposed to keep ads and editorial content separate. It’s designed so you can’t ascertain its value. That’s fine on principle, less so on paper. A journalist’s work is simultaneously priceless and strangely hard to quantify.

But I know Decaturish’s coverage has meant a great deal to our readers, particularly our stories about annexation.

People who normally don’t pay attention to their local government are starting to pay attention. Annexation affects us at a fundamental level. It could have an impact on your kids’ education, your tax rates and your police services. Aside from neighborhood-association blogs, we are the only website in our area trying to provide comprehensive, credible and easy-to-follow coverage of this topic.

As I’ve gone out to cover all these meetings, several of you have made a point of stopping me and saying, ‘Thank you.” I also get a lot of “thank you” messages via email and Facebook.

At a recent Avondale Estates meeting about annexation, someone walked up to me and said, “I wouldn’t have known about any of this if it wasn’t for you.”

I sometimes hear from people who don’t even live in our coverage area. They want to know if Decaturish can provide news about their community. A few days ago, I heard from a reader in Stone Mountain.

The email said, “If you did provide regular coverage of Stone Mountain Village, I know many people would be grateful and willing to pay a subscription fee.”

In August, I asked readers who value the work I’m doing to consider becoming paid subscribers for $12.99 a month. To date, we’ve had 30, which is phenomenal.

I sent an email thanking one of our recent subscribers for signing up. He replied, “Thank you! … Had a long talk with my wife the other day and we appreciate what you are doing.”

These subscribers are helping me build a foundation that will allow me to continue providing news to your community without sticking it behind a pay wall.

A few people like what we’re doing but were wary of the cost. Others just didn’t see the point of paying money for something we give you for free.

There are plenty of good arguments for sticking this information behind a pay wall. But the downside is that people with less means are less informed. If I’m providing information to you but you can’t get to it because it costs too much or navigating the subscription service is too complicated, what good is it?

Consider, for a moment, what the Atlanta Journal Constitution charges for an all-digital pass. The rate is $2.79 a week for daily access to content behind the pay wall plus Sunday paper delivery. At that rate, you’d pay about $12 to $14 a month.

It won’t all be news that you care about. The AJC covers DeKalb County shenanigans, and for that we should all be grateful. They’ve done a fine job shining a light on government corruption. But the AJC’s intermittent coverage of our local government just isn’t enough.

That’s a gap I’ve been trying to cover for nearly a year now. Based on your feedback, I know the coverage is appreciated. If you want it to continue and want us to expand our coverage, we’ll need your help.

We’re trying to reach a goal of getting 150 paid subscribers by the end of the year. That would allow us to continue to providing our current level of coverage without interruption and expand it a bit. If we hit 1,000 paid subscribers by the end of next year, we could hire a few full time employees.

Subscribers are first in line for branded merchandise, exclusive discounts from our advertisers and will receive a monthly email from me updating you on our progress.

If you’re interested, but the price is too steep for you, have you considered splitting the cost with someone? Many of the emails and messages we receive come from people in neighborhood associations. You could try asking your neighbors or fellow members of other civic-minded groups if they’d like to chip in.

We’re working our tails off for y’all week in and week out. I’m assembling a team of writers who are just as passionate about bringing you the news as you are about reading it.

We’ve got a good thing going here. You can help make it better.

If you appreciate what we do, please consider subscribing today. To subscribe, click here.

Your support helps provide news to your community for free.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

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