Ted Rall, capitalist:

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"NEWS DOES NOT WANT TO BE FREE": Ted Rall, in his syndicated column that he posts free on his web site, quotes Chris Hedges: "Nearly all reporting--I would guess at least 80 percent--is done by newspapers and the wire services."

Rall goes on to write:

Newsgathering requires extensive infrastructure. Beat reporters, freelancers, editors, stringers, fact-checkers, and travel cost a lot of money. (A week in rural Afghanistan costs at least $10,000.) Why shouldn't newspapers--the main newsgathering organizations in the United States--be compensated for those expenses?

No argument here. No particular argument with his next paragraph either, but it shows the narrow focus that dooms his chances of proposing a real solution:

Every newspaper article should enjoy an individual, aggressively enforced, copyright. Radio and TV outlets that currently lift their news reports out of newspapers--without forking over a cent--would have to hire reporters or pay papers a royalty. Paying newspapers for usage, even at a high rate, would probably be cheaper.

Rall says that news producers should put no news online, and if they do make sure none of it free– to charge double the subscription cost for the searchability benefit. He argues that news must be made scarce so that the laws of supply and demand can work to save the news industry.

Why do even self-described leftists need to be hit over the head to consider the possibility that their isn't a market solution to everything– or rather that it's not always the best solution.

Even if news were only engraved on rock, and no one could get a look at it except to pay the newsrock corporation, really important and valuable news would still be undercompensated for its value and likely the cost of uncovering and producing it. It's the nature of what news actually is— it can be shared infinitely and everyone still has it.

It's not just news, it's all information-- and the free flow of it (free as in freedom, not in giveaway) is vital to progress in science, art, technology, culture, policy, and dare I say it pontificating and cartooning.

Let's see if we can separate these meanings of free for Ted Rall and the reading audience:

Free exchange = good.

Uncompensated production = bad.

The current solution is a Rube Goldberg contraption of laws and institutions and even a few remaining cultural norms that mostly benefit not producers (like Ted Rall or your beat reporter or even an editor) but middlemen

Are our minds that limited that we can't envision a more fair, more free, and less restricting way of funding intellectual work?

Collective funding of creative work which inevitably – and the sooner the better – is collective property just makes sense. This can be done in decentralized ways, indeed I think people should get started and continue efforts in this area without the government, but even a national system could build in support for diversity– the payment decisions should be democratic and based on amount of support, not requiring a threshhold. Most creative work, reporting in particular, is already being subsidized by the people doing it. It's time we the public pay that subsidy and not rely on the good will and endurance of working reporters and the self-interest of corporations to get us what barely adequate news and information we receive now.