Will journalists be forced to include a "tip jar" logo next to their online work? Or is there some other way to save an industry in crisis?
Alan Mutter has a cool post on his 'Reflections of a Newsosaur' blog today: he advocates that we stop the exploitation of journalists. And he includes a handy way to calculate your own worth as a reporter, including the notion of establishing a basic hourly rate (which he calculates as four times the minimum wage in your state, so that would be $32 an hour in California, and then factor in everything else.)
Mutter's is a desperately needed message and tool-- in this age where freelancers are apparently expected to feel honored just to get their byline in an online publication, or a pittance instead of a professional salary.
Since the Chronicle drastically cut its newsroom last year and the California Media Workers alliance set up a Freelancers Unit (which, abbreviated, fittingly says "FU") I've read countless rants about the piss poor wages, or lack of them, that employers seem to think are OK to offer reporters, in the post-print, mobile-phone dominated age.
And so far, no one has figured out a way to turn around this depressing trend. Will reporters be forced to include a "tip jar" logo, alongside the "share" and "email" and "print" buttons that typically frame their online work? I don't know, but if you are prepared to give a dollar to a barista for making you a cup of joe, why not do the same for someone who just spent months of their life digging up the dirt on the rich and powerful, so that members of the public could have a clue as to what is really going on? And why don't the aggregators, like Google and Yahoo and Dogg, who profit handsomely from displaying reporters' work, pay writers a small fee (even a percentage of a cent) everytime someone clicks on this so-called 'free' content?
There may be very good reasons why none of the above approaches will work (it's easy to slip a dollar in a real jar, but less appealing when you have to log in and give someone your credit card number). But if human kind can figure out a way to get to the moon and cure cancer, then we can figure out a way to fairly compensate reporters.
Especially since these are the very folks who alert you when earthquakes hit and wars break out and seemingly wholesome politicians turn out to be cheating, daughter-denying, self-promoting sleaze bags. Yes, we can imagine a world without newsprint, but a world without news? That's called a dictatorship.
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