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FAQ: What is Early Access Pass and more

By Howard B. Owens

Since we launched Early Access Pass, a lot of people have asked questions. Some people have made statements worth addressing. And some people have expressed misperceptions about the program.  This FAQ is intended to address those issues.

What is Early Access Pass?
Early Access Pass is an innovative program asking readers to help provide financial support for the gathering and reporting of local news. Rather than wall off everything, The Batavian publishes select stories that are initially available only to those who have joined Early Access Pass.  For the first four hours after a story is published, only readers who have joined Early Access Pass will have access to those select stories.  Readers who join Early Access will get instant access to originally reported, bylined stories by The Batavian. Those who don’t join will need to wait four hours after publication to read those stories.

What do I get if I sign up for Early Access Pass?
You get instant access to all of the original, by-lined reporting of The Batavian while everybody waits to join will wait to get all of the news. And, currently, we’ll send you a free reusable tote bag.

What do I get if I DON'T sign up for Early Access Pass?
You can still read all of the press releases we post as soon as they're published.  Scanner reports will not require a pass.  Community events we cover as primarily photo coverage will most likely not require a pass.  There will be the other certain news items -- ones that didn't require a lot of reporting time -- that will not require a pass. And, of course, every story that did require a pass will no longer require a pass four hours after publication.  In other words, you still get everything we publish for free, though on a few items, you will need to wait to access it.

I think news should be free!
Actually, news still is free on The Batavian.  We’re offering you a choice: Join Early Access and get instant access or wait to join and then wait to read important news about the community for free later.  All stories are still free to read, but some will require an Early Access Pass to read immediately. 

Why are you asking me to pay you to read the news?
As stated above, we're not asking you to pay for news. We’re offering you a choice -- pay for instant access or wait and read it for free later. That said, gathering and reporting news is time-consuming, and time equals money, which means hiring reporters, which is expensive. For most of the first 15 years of The Batavian, Howard Owens gathered and wrote nearly all the news on the site. That required him to work 10, 12, 14, 16 hours a day.  Often, he still works those long hours.  It’s taken a toll on his health and given him very little free time.  He can no longer keep working at that pace.  The Batavian is asking readers to support The Batavian so its news staff can be expanded.

Isn’t this just a cash grab, pure greed?
As stated above, the founder and owner of The Batavian has been working 10 to 16 hours a day for most of the past 15 years.  He can’t continue at that pace.  This isn’t about generating more profit. It’s about asking the readers for help so The Batavian can hire more staff writers. 

Why should I pay The Batavian when I get my news elsewhere for free?
You can’t get most of what The Batavian reports elsewhere.  There are only two news organizations covering Genesee County that do any sort of in-depth reporting, and both now ask for readers to financially support their news-gathering efforts.  And that other publication doesn’t report nearly as much news about Genesee County as The Batavian. Also, The Batavian frequently reports news stories long before that other publication gets to them, if they ever do.  And of those two news organizations, The Batavian charges less on either a monthly basis or an annual basis.

Can’t I just get all my news off of social media?
In brief: no, you can’t. Social media is a poor substitute for an actual news-gathering operation.  The way the algorithms work, you can’t trust that everything that might be important to you will come to your attention or in a timely manner.  And how do you know what you’re reading on social media is accurate?  Who is the person providing you the information? What is the person’s agenda?  A lot of local governments now post information about what they’re doing on social media, but who is asking questions about the accuracy and context of that information?  What social media company is sending reporters to small town meetings to find out what’s really going on, to ask questions, to make public document requests, to hold appointed and elected officials accountable? These are the functions of journalists, and journalists, like any other worker, need to be paid to do their jobs. Twice in the past month (as of May 2023), reporters for The Batavian have reminded elected officials that they were about to enter secret meetings that violated the state's open meetings law.  In both cases, the elected officials agreed to hold their discussion in open session. It takes engaged, knowledgeable, professional reporters to hold public officials accountable.

Why is local news so important that I should pay to support it?
Without local reporters, there is nobody to hold local government officials accountable, to ensure they’re serving the public interest.  In communities without much, if any, local news, small-town governments have been shown to slip into incompetence, if not outright corruption. And it’s not that local government officials are bad people. It’s just without a watchdog, it’s easy for anybody to fall into bad habits.  Further, local news reporters do more than hold officials accountable. They also report on the accomplishments of our children. They spread the news about the good deeds of charities and civic organizations. And by spreading all of the information about a community, they help bind a community together, which is essential to a community’s health and financial well-being.

I’m not convinced. I still don’t think I should pay for local news.
Well, like we said, you don’t have to.  You can wait the four hours to read a story that might interest you.  That said, if readers won’t support local news, someday there will be no local news. Howard Owens, the owner of The Batavian, is going to retire or die someday.  As things stand, it’s doubtful The Batavian could continue under a new owner.  It would just shut down.  And the other big news operation in town relies heavily on its print subscribers to stay in business. All across the country, the declining value of print subscribers can be found in obituary columns.  The death of print news in small towns is inevitable.  So, if readers won’t support digital news, someday there will be no local news.

How do I join if I don’t want to use a credit card?
You can send a check for $80 to:

            The Batavian 
            P.O. Box 632
            Batavia, NY 14021

To join Early Access Pass online, click here.

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