Dan Connolly's tinkering lab notebook

KC Star to to limit free web browsing with a civilized paywall

The Kansas City star's web site is obnoxious. The ad-supported content model is clearly failing. The publisher announced they're moving to a paywall. This is a "civilized' paywall, following the model of the New York Times:

Yes, the NYT paywall is porous — but that’s a feature, not a bug. It allows anybody, anywhere, to read any NYT article they like. That makes the NYT open and inviting — and means that I continue to be very happy to link to NYT stories. (If you follow a link to the NYT from this or any other blog, you’ll never hit the paywall.)
Paying for something you value, even when you don’t need to, is a mark of a civilized society. The NYT treated its readers as mature and civilized adults, and outperformed internal expectations as a result. 

I see a lot of gripes about the change--some legitimate; e.g. Michael Peregrine brings up citizen journalism:

I will miss some of the Star’s content, but frankly I find that it is not the place for breaking news. Information breaks first on Twitter and then local television sites. Recently, when I wanted to find out the source of loud booms in my neighborhood, I did not come to the Star’s website. I went to Twitter, where I found lots of people talking about what was going on in the neighborhood. Are these people trained journalists? Hardly. Were they accurate about what they were observing outside their windows? Yes.

I'm excited about the rise of citizen journalism, but the impact of the web on the free press is a two-edged sword. I still think professional journalism is important to corporate and government transparency and accountability, and it's being disrupted in a big way, as Hearne Christopher Jr. observed Oct 29:

Meanwhile, much of the new newsroom remodeling is complete but the jury’s still out.
Clearly it looks a lot better than the old newsroom back when I was there (and until a handful of months back). And moving people down from Features on the third flood (and Sports) will rid the staff of that haunting feeling of having to stare each day at the dozens of empty desks where people like Brian McTavish, John Mark Eberhart, Ward Tripplet, Paul Horsley, Aaron Barnhart, Robert Butler, Dan Margolies, Jennifer Mann, Julius Karash, Chris LesterSteve Penn and countless others once labored.

Though I never got into the habit of reading the morning paper, my wife reads it over chai tea in the morning, so it's an important link between our family and our city. So in our case, the net price of the paywall an extra 70 cents a month, which seems like a fair price for unlimited access to archives and such. It's a long-shot that I'll use the archives much, but I think it's important that they be preserved. I convinced the family to cut cable in favor of Netflix and the like, but while the Star isn't what it once was, I'm content to pay for the low-tech reliability of the local newspaper and at least a hope of professional journalism.