Shirky: The new news environment needs to be chaotic

Clay Shirky is out with another great blog post. Particularly interesting is his view that news needs to be free — for democracy, for society, for openness:

And news has to be free, because it has to spread. The few people who care about the news need to be able to share it with one another and, in times of crisis, to sound the alarm for the rest of us. Newspapers have always felt a tension between their commercial and civic functions, but when a publication drags access to the news itself over to the business side, as with the paywalls at The Times of London or the Tallahassee Democrat, they become Journalism as Luxury. In a future dominated by Journalism as Luxury, elites would still get what they need (a tautology in market economies), but most communities would suffer; imagine Bell, California times a thousand, with no Ruben Vives to go after the the politicians.

Imagine other vital information not being free — to consume or spread. We once had a world like that. For better and for worse, the Internet has broken up the old models of publishing, but in the end it has unleashed knowledge.  We need new news model that will allow journalism and information to flow freely.

Paywalls will lead to ignorance and corruption. Is that really what news organizations want to foster?