The Federal Trade Commission will hold two days of public workshops in December centered on the changing journalism industry. The workshops will cover topics such as, the economics of print verses online news, emerging journalism models, innovative ways of doing journalism and government policies that can support quality journalism.
SPJ President Kevin Smith will attend the workshops on behalf of the organization. He asked each committee for a little feedback so he could present an accurate report on our behalf. I thought you might be interested to read the report generated by our freelance committee members. — Amy Green, freelance committee chairwoman.
The freelance committee’s biggest concern seems to be, perhaps understandably, about unpaid content.
Unfortunately this seems to be the new model that is gaining the most success, sites that revolve around unpaid content, sometimes user-generated and sometimes not. The sites are diverse. Twitter and Facebook. Huffington Post. Demand Studios and Examiner.
But it seems to go farther than that. In the past year Newsweek and Sojourners both have introduced major redesigns centered around content provided not by staff journalists but experts in their fields. When Newsweek ran a cover story this spring on the swine flu, the story was written not by a staff journalist but expert in communicable diseases.
What we are seeing here is the influence of blogs and cable news punditry in print, but this also seems to be a convenient way for magazines to shrink staffs and reduce costs.
Payments for freelance work also are shrinking. It used to be I rarely would work for $250 a story or less. Now I barely can find an assignment that pays more than that.
The problem here is clear. It is impossible to generate quality journalism if we cannot support our families. We need to discourage these models that revolve around unpaid content and support those that pay journalists for our hard work, although I wish I had a more specific solution here.