When the story went online last month, I literally tweeted something
asking the newspaper to make an exception to this rule for this story, given its subject matter and its power, and … crickets.
(In contrast, Bustle Digital’s Input
, an outlet with no paywall, covered a separate story
involving some of the same players, and wrote about it in a way that was thoughtful about a challenging topic. This was what USA Today
should have done with its even more in-depth reporting on this general topic.)
To me, this reflects a major problem with the newspaper industry’s approach to paywalls. Bills need to be paid, don’t get me wrong. But truthfully, we have information that could arguably save lives, a story about a person’s suicide and the toxic effects of cyberbullying—but instead of letting the target audience see any of it, the newspaper puts up a paywall so stringent that the vast majority of people who read it are effectively linking to archive pages or aggregated versions of the original content.
Now, it would be one thing if this was a piece of content that was very niche and narrowly tailored, along the lines of much of the content Business Insider or The Information publishes. But this was a piece about targeted harassment of a trans person—a trans person who was very well-known to their digital community.