Change has always been part of the newspaper business. For more than two centuries, newspapers have morphed in what they offer and how they offer it.
In the past two decades, change has been a constant with the Internet and the subsequent revolution in the ways to provide information.
With it has come a change in the answers I give to questions asked when I speak to groups as editor of a daily newspaper.
There are two questions in particular.
The first is: "Should newspapers charge people to read their website editions?"
This question first started popping up 10 years ago and comes up more frequently with each passing year.
My answer had long been "no," even as some newspapers such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal started to charge for access.
The "no" was been based on the thought that "traffic" is what's important to any website, including that of a business such as a newspaper, which relies on advertising sales to pay the majority of bills.
The more readers you attract to your electronic edition the more value you can offer advertisers. Newspapers have kept close watch on how many people visit their websites and how often. The thought was that if a newspaper charges people to read online, then a competitor — a television station, a weekly newspaper or a blogger — will offer news for free, get a larger audience and attract more advertising dollars.
Keeping the site free was thought to be a competitive advantage in the news-gathering business.
I no longer say "no" when asked about charging for website access.
My answer the past year or so has been "it's coming."
The days of free newspaper websites are numbered.
The industry is realizing that if you are able to create quality content — news reports, photographs, video and commentary — on a daily basis and do it better than anyone else, you can charge for it.
People will pay if each day you can provide unique, relevant news.
The second oft-asked question is: "Why do you allow comments to be posted below news stories?"
I've long defended the practice that became a standard feature on newspaper websites.
First, I would explain, it's a way to celebrate free speech and a newspaper should be a crusader when it comes to the exchange of ideas, opinions and information.
I would add that when you allow unfettered discussion, important truths will rise to the top.
"Then," I would be asked, "why do you allow anonymity? Why don't you make them sign their name like you do for letters to the editor?"
Because, I would explain, the print edition of a newspaper is different than a Web edition. And, it's an exciting difference. A print edition doesn't allow the same freedom.
The Web edition permits a real-time discussion. Thoughts and opinions about a news story can be challenged, discussed and debated. It's open to all. That's what free speech is all about. We shouldn't fear it. We should embrace it.
I now fear I was a bit naive and idealistic.
We govern the comments with a lengthy "use policy" agreed to by those wishing to comment. The policy was designed to protect against profanity and personal attacks. We hoped those commenting would be able to police the discussion by alerting us when policy was violated so we could review a comment and delete it, thus sending a warning to the person responsible.
We were a bit naive and idealistic.
As it turns out, we frequently have to ban people for repeatedly violating the policy they agreed to. We have even had to shut down comments below certain stories, because nearly every comment, if not all, were a violation of policy, if not common decency.
It's hard to believe what some people will write beneath a story about a motorcycle accident or the visit by the first lady.
I still subscribe to the belief that unfettered discussion is a bulwark of democracy; that the First Amendment is vital; that all voices have a right to be heard.
But now, when asked about why anonymous comments are allowed to be posted beneath stories, my answer is much briefer: A change is coming.
Lewis is executive editor of the Daily News. His email address is email@example.com.