If you follow The Columbian online, you know that we ask our frequent online readers to help support our journalism by buying a subscription.
We’ve had that policy for several years. Frankly, we and other local newspapers once had hoped that online advertising would be so robust that we could give away our journalism and still make enough money to cover our costs. But that hasn’t happened. So after a few freebies, we ask people to pay.
We’ve always had two unwritten exceptions to this policy. We’ll make our content free if it is about a significant public emergency. And we also make our content free if we can’t get our print edition delivered to our subscribers.
Both of those scenarios have come into play in the last month.
The “significant public emergency” happened first. When we came up with these exceptions, I always thought of a big earthquake. When the Big One hits, the public is going to need a lot of reliable information, fast, and The Columbian will be great way to get that information out.
But this emergency began with a fever, sore throat and a rash: the measles. The disease is highly contagious among unvaccinated people, so we felt it was our civic duty to let everyone know about the epidemic, where people might have been exposed, and what to do. So we opened up our first stories on this topic to everyone. If we can help limit the spread of a potentially serious infectious disease, we should do it.