Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/4/2015 (2160 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Free Press is about to start asking readers of our digital content to pay for it and readers are justifiably asking why they should do so.

We try to answer that question every day with unique, well-researched, concise content that tells you what is really going on – as opposed to the flood of information and misinformation flowing all around us every day in the new-age world of infinite media.

Example No. 1 is the work done this week by our reporters to debunk a story widely reported in other media on a Facebook page that seemingly showed its racist views on natives and was "liked" by thousands, supposedly proof positive of deeply entrenched racism in Winnipeg.

Advertising revenues are an important part of our business model at the Free Press, but we have always needed readers to contribute as well.

There were interviews with native educators, community activists, university professors and others on the development, with appropriate disgust expressed by on-air radio folks.

The only problem, as Mary Agnes Welch explained in a column, is that the Facebook page was a fake, a deliberate effort to defame a young woman who has been the target of a nasty cyberbullying campaign seemingly organized by one man. The "likes" came from outside North America, meaning they were probably purchased.

This was not further proof of Winnipeg's racist heart. Yes, racism is a serious problem in this city. But the suggestion that there was widespread support for this particular Facebook effort was false.

Free Press editors posted an item on this on our website on Wednesday afternoon, after Mary Agnes and reporter Melissa Martin spent many hours and used their considerable expertise to get to the bottom of it.

Work like this does not come cheaply. It's easy to react instantly to items on social media, report what they say, interview people for reaction, take it all at face value. It costs money to have a robust, serious newsroom that provides comprehensive coverage and digs behind appearances to find the truth.

That is what the Free Press provides. We have the largest newsroom in the city. Many of our staff have decades of experience in their fields. They have a depth of knowledge and skill that can be gained only in a strong news organization that supports them year in and year out.

That support comes in many ways, not the least of which is our ability to stand behind stories. We are regularly threatened with lawsuits, and often served with statements of claim over what we have published.The current list includes a suit over stories that we did on a person who misrepresented his qualifications in dealings with multiple sclerosis patients and one from a man upset about the way we reported on criminal charges against him. If they had their way, we never would have told these stories.

Standing behind stories, doing work that readers never see, costs money too. But we could not be the news organization that we are without defending what we report.

Advertising revenues are an important part of our business model at the Free Press, but we have always needed readers to contribute as well.

The digital world is no different. Advertising alone cannot pay the bills. Many of the web's most popular sites are, in fact, still operating on venture capital in the hopes of getting enough visitors to make a profit eventually.

We provide a specialized service – news and information about Winnipeg and Manitoba – that will never attract the hundreds of millions of page views needed to build an advertising-supported revenue base of a substantial news organization.

So we are asking readers to pay online, starting later this month, as editor Paul Samyn has explained in recent articles.

Ask why and I'll point you to the content that we publish every day.

Bob Cox is publisher of the Free Press.

Bob Cox

Bob Cox

Bob Cox was named publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press in November 2007. He joined the newspaper as editor in May 2005.

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