Muncie Indiana News Should Be Free

Notes from your friendly, neighborhood publisher.

By K. Paul Mallasch

MUNCIE, INDIANA (OPINION) - Greetings. I hope everyone out there is staying warm. The weather has gotten really cold, and heating bills are going to go up steeply. This has got me thinking - wouldn't it be great if civilization was so advanced that basic necessities - like heating and food - were free?

To some this might sound like a radical idea, but perhaps in the future robotic automation or technology in general might be able to make basics like heating and cooling cheap enough to be free for everyone. Imagine what would be possible if these were no longer worries for people and they could concentrate on other things.

As humans moved from being hunters and gatherers and used domestication of animals and farming to survive, they begin to have a lot more time on their hands. And this helped mankind stumble forward.  Would the same happen if some of the same burdens of the modern world were taken away? Would we get lazier or advance even more quickly?

If you've read some of my earlier columns, you know that I'm a fan of science fiction - or speculative fiction as some call the genre. I like the idea of imagining what might be possible in this wonderful world we're born into. Still, I'm also grounded in reality. I know at this point in time the idea of heating everyone's home for free (or feeding them) may seem ridiculous to some or even evil to others.

That being said, I believe that some essentials of the modern world can and should be provided to the people for free. Yes, I'm talking about the news. Earlier this summer our "slogan" changed from By the People and for the People to News Should be Free. Some people have asked me how news can be free, and I wanted to answer that this week.

Building the MFP Team

One of the biggest lessons I've learned over the years is that one person alone can't do everything. Markus Frind (the creator of the Plenty of Fish dating website) was able to generate $10+ million a year from his apartment without any employees by building his own dating website.

While modern news is a complex relationship in some ways, it's not as clear cut as a website to match people romantically. And yet in many ways, having a freely available news source is more important. When people ask why I started Muncie Free Press, I think some are surprised when I say that news is important to the American way of life.

I think many see a personal grudge against my former employer, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Competition is good for everyone involved, and I would like to see more media sources battling it out for the community's trust, support and attention. The problem is that the few gigantic media corporations that control almost everything are heavily entrenched after enjoying many years of 30%+ profit margins because of no competition.

This is a real problem on many different levels - and probably the biggest reason more people don't start their own news platform online. I have to tip my hat to people like Todd Smekens and Jeannine Lee Lake who continue to publish in Muncie. While I can't speak for them, the biggest difficulty I see is lack of resources currently.

And yet we still compete in the Muncie media market. For me, it's because I think providing fair, accurate and timely news to the people for free is vital for America's well being. This is why I continue to struggle. In the early years, I tried to handle content, running the website and sales all on my own. This is changing.

As you know, Rick Yencer, local journalist legend, has been writing for the Muncie Free Press for over a year now. This has freed up some of my time, but we've still struggled to get the attention of local businesses. To fix that, I've added another member to the team. I'd like to welcome Robert Schounce Jr to the team.

He has a background in the local food and beverage industry. His parents ran the Chances R on South Walnut for many years, and he has worked as a manager in a few different restaurants over the years. He's also managed to get a degree in business from Ball State University. I'm happy to have him as part of the MFP team.

He made his first public experience last week at the Muncie on the Move breakfast. Since then we've been putting together a better media kit to help explain how Muncie Free Press can help local businesses. Beyond basic banner ads of the last century, we work to provide results that can be measured.

Greed, not Revenue, is Evil

In order to provide news - even obituaries - for free online, revenue is necessary to pay the bills. Rather than thumping the people who read the news for nickels and dimes to keep MFP moving forward, I think local businesses can help with this while at the same time getting affordable marketing help for themselves. This would enable us to keep the news and information we provide free.

I could write an entire book (or series) on why news is important for people - especially in the modern world - but I'll leave that for later. For now, I want to extend an invitation to all local business owners to contact Robert Schounce and let him know how we can help your company. Beyond helping you make more money, you can help us by giving us more resources at our disposal to hire writers, editors, and others to make Muncie Free Press an even better online news community. Here's his information. He's eager to hear from you.

Robert Schounce Jr.

He can set up a time to come in and talk to you personally about the different opportunities available to both help your business and at the same time support diversity and competition in the local media market. The result is that the citizens of Muncie - and beyond - will be better served. We're not greedy, but we are excited about having more resources to be able to do more for the community while still paying our heating and food bills.

What Next

As the Muncie Free Press team comes together and more resources are available thanks to advertising and the support of local business owners and community leaders, I have quite a few plans for our fair city. I'll be talking about them here publicly as they're put in place, but I don't want to talk too much about them yet.

Maybe a future column will deal with competition in the marketplace and why it's a good thing, but for now know that behind the scenes Muncie Free Press is growing. With the support of the local community and businesses, the future is bright and anything is possible. Perhaps Muncie is the model for future media - cities where more than one source of news and information exist.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a comment here, on Facebook, on Twitter or anywhere else we interact and inform online. Journalism is a conversation, and we're listening.

Your friendly, neighborhood publisher,
K. Paul Mallasch