Feb 1, 2010

For what it's worth

If journalists want the public to value journalism - and pay a price for it - then journalists need to start by valuing their own work, says Alan Mutter, a UC Berkeley journalism professor who blogs at Reflections of a Newsosaur.

From Mutter:

I hear from people almost every day who want to commission an article or reprint a post in exchange for the ephemeral compensation known as “exposure.”

Amazingly – or, should I say, outrageously? – most of the requests come from people who themselves are being paid for their work at either a for-profit or non-profit organization.

Instead of simply declining, I tell them something like this:

Quality journalism takes training, time and tenacity. Although it’s easy to fill space with words, pictures and videos that are produced quickly and on the cheap, down-and-dirty “journalism” is the intellectual equivalent of empty calories. ...

The only way for journalists to fight back is to demand to be paid what they’re worth.

I've argued, perhaps less eloquently, variations on this theme myself in recent years. There are, of course, real challenges to getting journalists to fight as a team on this front: A. they're notoriously independent minded, B. some journalists are quite content to get "exposure" instead of "m-o-n-e-y," C. corporations can effectively divide and conquer through layoffs, cheap hires, cluster domination, and lowered standards, and D. a wave of anti-professional populism has swept through the country and journalism is a prime target (something else corporations have taken advantage of).

Aware of these practical problems, Mutter offers a practical solution in the form of a "freelance pay calculator." The calculator literally allows a journalist to assign value to his or her work. It can also give employed journalists an idea of how much they're worth in terms of salary.

Depressingly, the hourly pay rate Mutter uses in his example is higher than what many full-time newspaper reporters in Southern California receive.


poor scribe said...

$29.33 an hour? That'd be one rich reporter in LANGLand.

Anonymous said...

That's 29.33 a day in lang

Anonymous said...

Everyone at lang is running scared and will do anything old yeller lambert tells them to do. no one has the pelotas to stand up and say enough. Why, cause they are all afraid for their jobs and have become yes men and women with no backbone. if i was you (plural) i'd be hunting for a job before those paychecks start bouncing like a rubber ball cause of the bankrupcy.

Anonymous said...

dont think the paychecks will bounce but I would still be looking because the future aint bright at lang or medianews...duh!

LANG banger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Crude name-calling?

Anonymous said...

Alan: The anti-professional mantra isn't among the public. It's fostered by editors and publisher throughout the media. They no longer value their own staff work and postulate that if they could just get enough readers to throw crud up for free, they could print ads around it and call it a website or newspaper. We are our own worst enemy.

Anonymous said...

This MNG "prepackaged" bankruptcy would make for an interesting time for a worker revolt. I wonder how a strike or walkout in LANG, for example, might throw a monkeywrench into the bankruptcy plans.

I wonder how many of the lenders would have second thoughts about signing off on this plan if they believed the company had an angry and organized workforce.

Anonymous said...

it's humorous to read journalists write about themselves. For a group that is supposed to objective and impartial, I've never read such emotional irrational stuff.

Anonymous said...

Why do you assume all are journalists? I for one am not. Although I worked in the business, it wasn't on that side of the fence.

The problem of a walkout would be it won't work. Change the masthead and all the papers are getting to be not much different.

I am sure readers are complaining that the papers are shrinking, less relevant articles and the owners/operators could give a crap. That is why most of them are in the position they are in.

I wonder what the margins were two-three years ago in Langland vs today. Got to be most ugly.