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We've always given it away

One of the first things I learned as a novice reporter at a daily newspaper was that the quarter dropped in the newsbox – yes, it was only 25 cents in the early 1980s – and the buck-and-change collected weekly by the kids on their routes paid for the newsprint, ink and, maybe, the cost of delivery.My salary and that of the other reporters, editors, photographers and artists – the full cost of gathering and reporting the news – came from advertising revenue.It’s local businesses that pay for the news – not readers.That’s the way it’s been for more than 100 years – ever since the birth of the “penny press,” when publishers discovered there was more money to be made selling readers to advertisers than news to readers.And that’s why I’m mystified so many leaders in the newspaper industry want to start charging for news posted on the Internet.Latest to weigh in is Al Neuharth, the 83-year-old former chairman of Gannett Co. and founder of USA Today.“Instead of free newspapers, newspapers wi…

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