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About our electronic paper . . .

I like to hear from readers, even if their messages aren't always pleasant.

The recent announcement that Charleston Newspapers would begin charging $5.99 a month for online subscriptions stirred up some responses.

Here is one email we got:

"I just counted 18 ads on your web version of the paper and I stopped counting. There were more. The Internet is free, so there is no cost to you for its use. Still, you want me to pay for the online version. I'll read Yahoo, Suddenlink, local TV websites and other free news sources."

Ouch.

Then there was this:

"I have been a faithful daily reader of the Gazette and Daily Mail online for at least the last 12 years. I will no longer be reading your newspapers in protest of this new fee. I will get my news from other local media. This fee will backfire."

Double ouch.

Actually, as Charleston Newspapers mentioned in the announcement, we've made sure to continue providing a significant amount of content for free.

Online content is free to anyone who has a print subscription. Obituaries remain free. So do blogs. Every reader gets 10 free clicks a month on anything before being asked to subscribe.

Links from search engines like Google or social media like Facebook or Twitter get you in the door free (although clicks after that count toward your 10).

I'd make the case that $5.99 a month is relatively inexpensive — about a buck-fifty a week. The price takes into account that online delivery is less expensive than printing a newspaper and delivering it to your home.

I've long maintained that popping open a newspaper box and getting all that information for 50 cents is the best bargain in America.

Nevertheless, I get it that Charleston Newspapers is now charging for content that previously had been free to online readers. That's not going to be popular with everybody.

But as I responded to our e-mailers, providing our content and coverage does involve costs. We make a significant investment in gathering and putting out information.

The e-mails I got reminded me of a photo I saw on Twitter. It was posted after a long state Board of Education meeting in Lincoln County, where the new state superintendent was named.

The meeting started in the morning and went past 10:30 p.m.

The photograph that was tweeted showed the Daily Mail education writer, the Gazette education writer, an Associated Press reporter and a West Virginia Public Broadcasting writer still hanging in there, interviewing the new superintendent.

The Daily Mail's beat writer, Dave Boucher, had dug into his duffel bag to come up with a banana for his dinner.

I'm relaying that story not to complain about the challenges  of our work but to remind readers about the commitment our reporters make. I'm proud of our staff and our coverage.

This week we sent our West Virginia University beat writer to the Mountaineers' game at Iowa State. Because of the distance, he was staying in the area until the Mountaineers' game at Purdue.

The Big 12 schedule means similar trips to places like Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Similarly, our Marshall beat writer travels to Conference USA destinations like El Paso, Tulsa, Memphis and Orlando.

We think this is an investment of effort, time and travel that our readers expect and deserve. It produces both game coverage and a relationship with the team that's reflected in deeper reporting.

When the West Virginia legislative session begins next month, we'll be staffing two political reporters at the Capitol every day.

We think their coverage is interesting, and their presence essential to encouraging open government and civil discourse.

None of this is free. In fact, it's a significant investment.

We realize that if you're subscribing you're making an investment, too.

We promise to do our best to provide interesting, relevant and timely stories, photos and videos. We'll continue trying to make our website easier to navigate. We'll continue to listen when you talk to us.

Convinced?

Subscribe by going to http://iservices.cnpapers.com/ or call customer service at 304-348-4800.

We genuinely value our relationship with you.

Brad McElhinny is managing editor of the Daily Mail. Contact him at 304-348-1703 or bradmc@dailymail.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradMcElhinny.


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