Patsy Pridgen

Patsy Pridgen Patsy Pridgen

Few things set my teeth on edge like some version of the following: “Would you post the whole article? When I click on the link, I get a message that I need to subscribe to the Telegram.”

I want to shout through Facebook at the would-be moocher on the Rocky Mount Concerned Citizens site: “What do you expect? The newspaper for free?”

Evidently so. These folks don’t seem to understand that the newspaper is a business with operational costs: salaries, supplies, rent and taxes. The free press isn’t free because it can’t afford to be. It needs subscribers, not only to help pay overhead but also to entice advertisers. It boggles my mind that people don’t value their local paper enough to subscribe.

I can’t imagine a Rocky Mount without the Telegram. Where would citizens find unbiased, researched, investigative reporting? I value the stories the Telegram has covered in the last couple of years concerning Rocky Mount city government. I, for one, would not have realized the extent of the problems exposed.

I wouldn’t have suspected that the city hired a community and business development director who continued to live out of state. I wouldn’t have known that the China American Tobacco Company building had been sold to OIC for half the amount offered by a private investor, that the Carlton House renovation grant had languished on the desks of city personnel and that Rocky Mount had lost its accreditation status in the Main Street revitalization program.

Just this past week, the Telegram broke the story of the federal indictment of the developer the city has hired for the proposed downtown hotel and parking lot adjacent to the Event Center.

Oh sure, I could attend every single City Council meeting and maybe dig out the information for myself, but who has that kind of time? And I certainly don’t want to rely on the City of Rocky Mount press releases, written by city public information officers who, by the way, make far more than the average Telegram reporter. I depend on my local newspaper to do the grunt work for me. At my print subscription of less than a dollar a day, it has been and continues to be a deal.

It’s no secret that the newspaper business is struggling. In February, McClatchy, a major publisher, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. This is the outfit that publishes, among others, the Raleigh News and Observer and the Charlotte Observer. From 2006 to 2018, the company’s circulation declined 59 percent. From 15,000 employees in 2006, the company went to fewer than 3,000 in 2019. The company is reorganizing. Already struggling even before COVID, many newspapers, small and large, face similar problems.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here. You are reading this column because you are a subscriber. I just wish I could convince some of these people who are so intent on getting the news for free of the importance of supporting the newspaper with a paid subscription. The free press needs our help.

Patsy Pridgen blogs at and is the author of “Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder.”