To pay or not to pay?

Should journalists always get paid for the work they produce? It’s a question that I’m not sure has a definite answer, but the more I have thought about it the closer to an answer for myself I have come. I used to think if anyone would publish me, I would take it. I get my name out there, I get a byline. What isn’t there to like? I need clips to get a job, right? But are the clips more important than my integrity or my time and effort that went into that piece?

At a conference last spring, one of the presenters made a comment that resonated with me. He said something along the lines of “If you do work for free, you are just hurting in the industry as a whole.” He went on to explain that if more and more journalists accept doing work for free it will become more common and it will be more difficult for freelancers to get paid fair compensation or get paid at all. I had never looked at it from that perspective, but it made sense. If I am going to write a story for free to get the experience, why would a publication pick someone else to write the same story, but he or she expects to get paid? This comment made me reconsider the value that I hold in my work and what I should expect of myself.

This doesn’t mean that I would never write for free or I think every time someone publishes something he or she should be compensated, but there are only certain circumstances where journalists shouldn’t be paid for their work. Therefore, I think some of the backlash Arianna Huffington received when she sold The Huffington Post to AOL was warranted. She made a pretty penny off of the work that her unpaid bloggers were producing. Granted, I can only assume these bloggers were knowingly producing content they knew they would not be paid for, but I don’t think that is the best journalistic model. Also, when those bloggers signed up to write for free, they couldn’t have known the value The Huffington Post would rise to when it was sold.

Those bloggers created the success The Huffington Post reached, but did they reap the benefits that Huffinton reached? Monetarily, no way. Now maybe some of those bloggers went on to get paid jobs based off of their work or their unpaid work was just a side job to their paid job, but that couldn’t have been the case for anyone.

While The Huffington Post can be deemed a successful model, is it a model that the journalism industry should want to replicate if it means allowing journalists to do a job they should get paid for, for free?

I would love to work for a successful publication, but that doesn’t mean I would want to change my values or beliefs just to get a byline.


Audience Importance

Both John Marshall’s keynote speech and the article about successful bloggers, highlighted the importance of having a supportive audience. Support for monetary reasons, as well as for content are main reasons why some blogs are more successful than others. If blogs don’t have readers, it is difficult for them to make money, and there existence is no longer guaranteed. Oftentimes when readers are so involved in a blog, they became more invested and readership will only increase.

Talking Points Memo received support from its audience in multiple ways, which created audience interaction.  Marshall received monetary support, which allowed him to expand the journalism he was producing and actually hire full-time staff. Without that reader support, there is no guarantee the blog would have reached the success it has. His audience also interacted with him by giving him information about stories and sending in tips. As an independent blogger, he didn’t have the resources to travel and interview people throughout the country, but his readers were throughout the country and able to give him information. His readers were a direct reason why he was able to uncover the stories he did.

I thought he made an interesting point in his speech about independent media uncovering the story and reporting it, but then losing it to the mainstream media when the story gains popularity. This just shows that independent media is covering stories they should be covering and doing the work mainstream media isn’t. Even though it would be more ideal if independent bloggers could carry the story through, it is still important that the stories are getting told.

While I Can Has Cheezburger is not a journalistic website, it still portrays the same importance of audience support and contribution. If readers did not send in their own content, the website would not be what it is today. It greatly contributed to its success. The list of bloggers in the rest of the article, show that a simple niche blog idea can reach great success, which then leads to monetary success. Even though not all blogs are going to reach the success to become full-time jobs, they do show that blogs have a place in the media world and should be taken seriously. When ad spots are going for thousands of dollars, they are clearly doing something right.


Importance of Blogging

The Alternet article about Talking Points Memo winning the George Polk truly epitomizes the importance blogging is playing in the news world. While awards are great and being recognized is nice, the expansion and continual work TPM has undergone exemplifies the role blogging is now playing in the news cycle.

TPM has created a news model that is not just about producers and consumers; it is about the relationship between the two and how there is a give and take. Readers become more invested in a news outlet, when they are actually contributing to the news they are reading, especially when it actually affects them. TPM would not have been able to develop the story about the attorney generals as quick as it did, if it had not not the readers’ support. This is one way blogs are interacting with its readers, and it is a way to create a stronger platform.

TPM was also covering this story before the mainstream media, which shows that blogs need to be taken seriously and be considered credible news sources. The attorney general story was a story the MSM should have been covering, but wasn’t. There is the tendency for blogs to pick up on stories, important stories, the MSM is not catching. Journalists and future journalists need to recognize this because the outlets that should be the most trusted, aren’t necessarily covering the most important stories. There are a lot of stories happening, both nationally and internationally, that could have significant consequences, and the independent bloggers are the ones picking up on it first. Where people should be desiring to work is changing, if future journalists want to be engaging in important journalism.

With this award TPM has also proven that all good journalism does not have to be unbiased work. It has a clear slant and agenda, which works for the type of journalism it is trying to produce. The journalism being produced matches TPM’s goals and beliefs, which is the freedom bloggers have allowed themselves. There is no one that is being answered too, and no one to appease.

Seven years ago when this award was given, TPM had proven that blogs need to be taken seriously in the news business and since then their prominence and importance has only increased.