Award level journalism provided for free
I now feel that with all the blogging and opinion pieces on the web it is time for personal journalism to develop and hopefully flourish with some professional standards and of course some revenue.
This morning I heard a radio program tear apart the Huffington Post. com management for making profits on the back of journalists, bloggers and commentators who post their work for free on that web site. The journalists who were interviewed thought that if their work is used by a money making web based publications like the Huffington Post then they should get paid since the publisher has been allegedly doing quite well financially of late. One of the free contributors was apparently put up for a Pulitzer Prize for her story by the Huffington Post management. The Post benefitted but there was no payment for the original work even when the work reached Pulitzer’s lofty standards.
Welcome to Dodge City and the Wild West
This raises the general issue of how new digital media pay or don’t pay for freelance content. Publishers perhaps believe in these early days that getting published is reward enough especially if they are seen as a creditable publication. The Huffington Post maintains its own regular paid staffers but relies on the generosity of other journalists to freely flesh out their daily content offering to their readers.
The truth is many bloggers and journalists simply use their stories as a cross promotion to get attention for other activities they are engaged in such as book or film they have recently completed. So it isn’t one sided that the Huffington Post is a grasping greedy outfit exploiting journalists. They may provide a useful promotional service and get good editorial into the bargain.
It will only be exploitation if the reputation of the Post is built on the backs of journalists who at this juncture are making the transition from fewer jobs in print and broadcasting to the new on-line media. It is also dangerous to publish unpaid work if hidden in the content the writer has an ax to grind. In that sense web journalism resembles the worst excesses of wild west as editorial standards are developed and livings are starting to be made .
© 2011 Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved