“Information is a basic right—as vital as food, water, & a roof. People in hard situations need information to survive.”…
It’s a line from the post “Folks without Internet need news access too,” written by Jesse Hardman for Columbia Journalism Review. Read the entire post here.
Hardman and I agree that non-digital consumers must be considered. My post in May, “There are always casualties in a revolution,” said as much.
But this post isn’t about Hardman, necessarily, or me. It’s about 13 words: Information is a basic right – as vital as food, water, and a roof.
Certainly information is important. It’s essential.
But is it a basic right?
First let’s define the word “right.” In this case, Hardman and then Save the Picayune are using the word in a humanistic context. It’s about individual value and worth. Survival. Among the first level of what’s necessary for a humane existence.
Second, using this definition, there should exist charitable organizations to provide information to those who cannot afford it. (Insert joke here about news organizations giving away their online product for free for a decade.) Charitable organizations exist to serve food to those who have little or none, and provide shelter and clothes. Does the The Times-Picayune, or more specifically the folks behind Save the Picayune, intend to turn their product into a charity, to pay for journalists and print engineers and delivery drivers to put – free of charge – a TP at the door or shelter or protective alley of every New Orleans citizen who cannot afford to buy a copy?
Third, assuming handing out the paper free is not an option, was that tweet little more than a veiled plea of “Please, what we do is important, so support and buy our product!”?
What I’ve learned about myself the last two weeks, since Hardman’s post and Save the Picayune’s endorsement of it, is that I believe information, while a key to a full, informed life, is not a basic right. Information is something to be sought out and acquired, applied, and passed on to others, but professional, community information is not food. It’s not shelter. It’s not clothes. It’s close, but it’s not on the same level.
If it is, however, and if I’m wrong, then how sad it is that more isn’t being done to combat this pressing social issue.
Find Dave Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.