Editorial: The cost of free speech

Journalism comes with a price tag — for both the reporter and the reader


The Newseum, The New York Times declared on Oct. 22, could potentially go under.

Home to all things involving the first amendment, the cubist-style building on Pennsylvania Avenue boasts relics such as chunks of the Berlin Wall and an entire exhibit on 9-11 front pages and newsreels. It is a space dedicated to the journalistic tradition that is very much needed in a time where Fake News circulates faster than the common cold and modern diplomacy takes place over Twitter.

With a whopping $24.95 per person admission fee on a stretch of free museums — and public donations bringing in less than ten percent of the museum’s budget — it’s no wonder the institution is floundering. In the nine years since its doors opened, the Newseum has turned up a deficit every year, reports Times writer Sopan Deb. The Newseum relies, according to the Times, mostly on private donations from a single institute, whose own resources are slowly dwindling.

So the question remains: What good is free speech if it costs its audience a pretty penny to hear it?

Certainly, there is a particular socioeconomic status required to stay informed. While a college student with a full course load supporting themselves on a minimum wage job isn’t going to have the time, or potentially the cash, to spend on a newspaper subscription, a CEO who is home for dinner every night will. As much as we can, we at The Weekly offer information for free, but there are other institutions that are unable to do that.

Unlike the New York Times or Washington Post, a subscription to The Weekly doesn’t cost the individual reader anything. Like any other club, students pay an activities fee with their tuition, the lump sum of which is then delegated to various clubs by SGA. The newspaper itself is free for the taking off of racks in Java Joe’s, the bookstore and around campus.

One of the biggest drawbacks to print journalism is, and will continue to be, simply the cost of the physical product. Our long-time publisher, Lynne Septon, offers us a rate that others simply cannot match — and yet, a majority of our budget still goes towards printing.

What good is free speech if it costs its audience a pretty penny to hear it?

The Internet, on the other hand, is free. It has taken us at The Weekly nearly two decades to figure it out, but we finally have a new website (muhlenbergweekly.com) that works for us and our readers alike.

Yet, there is something about the crack of the newspaper as you uncrease it with your GQ coffee, or the smell of the newsprint, that a computer or smartphone cannot replicate.

With SGA budgets due soon, and a quarter of our editorial board graduating in May, we at The Weekly need to look at our own expenses and ask ourselves what it will cost to keep the journalistic tradition going on a campus without a journalism department.

The cost of free speech is high — and the cost of keeping the public informed is even higher.

+ posts

The Muhlenberg Weekly's Editorial Board is comprised of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor(s) and Section Editors, one of whom writes the editorial. Material appearing without a byline represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here