The news runs on pennies

In the 1990s, every night as the press rolled and the newsroom got the first editions of the newspaper, City Editor Mac Hill would hold up the front page and ask aloud, “Well, is it worth 50 cents today?”

It was Mac’s audible reminder that every edition of the newspaper comes with a value equation: Had the sum total of our day’s labors produced a product worth the price of admission?

The cost has kept up with the times – like everything else in this world. One year ago this week, The Augusta Chronicle raised its price for home delivery 85 cents a week.

Mac’s question remains: Does each reader know each day that he got his money’s worth?

Being an editor by trade but a math lover at heart, I would challenge Mac with the following line of questioning.

If the cover price is $1, then each section costs 25 cents. So what Mac should have been asking is: Is today’s A section worth a quarter? What about Metro? Sports? Classified?

But, Mac, my argument would often continue, if there are six pages in each section, then was each page worth the 4 cents?

Furthermore, was each story on the front page worth the penny the reader paid for it?

In the modern age, people say news should be free in an Internet world. News has always been nearly free. Less than a penny per story.

Is Sylvia Cooper’s City Ink column worth a penny? How about Bill Kirby’s columns? Rick McKee’s cartoons?

Are the Wall Street Jour­nal pages in the Sunday Business section worth 8 cents? Is the Sunday Opinion section, just more than a year old, worth 72 cents a month?

So, when Public Service Editor Mike Wynn comes and asks me whether we can spend $275 on the records for the sheriff’s funeral fund, I like to ask the question: Will the readers think it was worth the penny they paid for it?

And over this past year, your renewal notices have arrived. Seven-day subscriptions are about $20 a month – about 66 cents a day.

With that notice in hand, you asked the heart of Mac’s questions: Is it worth it? Should I renew?

For me, the answer to every question above is: “Yes.”

Yes to Mac. And yes to Sylvia. And yes to my math. And to the stories. And the pages. And the renewal. The Opinion section. The public records. The Wall Street Journal pages.

When we raised the price last year, we turned off most of the free access to our digital products.

But as print subscribers, you have already paid for the stories, one penny at a time, and you should experience their digital enhancements, too.

Enhancements such as photos, videos and databases are yours by registering. If you haven’t signed up to access these products, go to augustachronicle.com and click on the orange button on the right-hand side that says “Activate.”

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