Dear Reader | Journalism’s digital evolution a challenge for all

The delivery of news (and an incalculable amount of information that is not news) has evolved far beyond the newspaper industry’s first stage of simply putting all of the content that was in the paper online after the print version went to press.

It is now a 24/7 venture, one that requires journalists who once could spend an entire day gathering information and interviewing sources for, say, an article on a fatal wreck, to report the news episodically as soon as something can be confirmed.

And coverage spreads far beyond the website. Today, readers follow news from their phones, tablets, through Tweets, Facebook, text alerts and more.

Readers expect it, and frankly they deserve it.

While these changes, coming at a time when an unrelated economic crisis has bitten into everyone’s bottom line, have at times been excruciatingly painful, in many ways they are exhilarating.

These new tools, including the ability to craft our coverage with a variety of components such as video and databases, will allow us to provide a depth of coverage that was never before possible.

Providing coverage with literally up-to-the-minute urgency, and maintaining our mandate to ensure that coverage provides context and comments from all sides, comes at a price. With the clarity of 20-20 hindsight, newspapers should never have given away their content for free, because psychologically it devalued the difficult but important work our journalists do.

Warren Buffett, the president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is widely considered the most successful investor of the 20th century. He so believes in the power of newspapers and their future that he purchased all of the print publications once owned by Media General.

Here’s what he said about the changing business model: “We must rethink the industry’s initial response to the Internet. The original instinct of newspapers then was to offer free in digital form what they were charging for in print. This is an unsustainable model.”

Now we, along with news companies across the company and the world, are reordering our business model to make sure we can deliver our online news and our printed products to readers at a reasonable cost. That’s why, beginning Dec. 5, we will begin offering bundled subscriptions for home delivery and online access through The Sun News + program. We announced the change on Monday because letters informing some subscribers were mailed over the weekend and we wanted to make sure all of our market got the word at the same time.

Those who don’t want home delivery also can sign up for online-only service for $6.95 per month, a price that is less than 25 cents a day. Users who don’t sign up will still have access to 15 articles per month, along with unlimited access to the homepage, section fronts and advertising.

I’ve said in this space before that there has never been a time when it was more important for citizens to have a trustworthy source for news. Yes, there are blogs a-plenty online, and there are many sites with a particular social or political focus that provide information aligned with that focus.

Journalists do not. They chase down the facts of a story wherever they lead. We can debate until the next millennium the mainstream media bias, but I can attest to the absence of bias in our news coverage. Opinion is published on our editorial page; there is no place for it in our news coverage.

Reporters do not have a stake in how a story turns out. They do have a stake in how well and fully they report it. Their very jobs, and the future of journalism, depend on that performance.

Thanks for reading, and for being a part of journalism’s evolution.