Good journalists/writers know that they’re good. Most good writers believe that writing is a vocation. They know what they are worth and what they should be paid. Traditionally, good writers worked for big media organizations like The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune because they were good enough to land jobs there, editors recognized and appreciated their talent, and these organizations had the money to pay the writers what they are worth (or close to it).
(Pictured at left: Good writers can be cocky, by frielp)
They might seek other jobs, start their own companies, or teach. Some might actually be lucky enough to find new jobs that compensate them, with editors who appreciate their work.
SalaryTK, a blog I found through Fine on Media, is a “job board for journalists who don’t want to get paid”. Clearly, this is a joke. What journalist doesn’t want to get paid? Nearly every day, the editor(s) behind SalaryTK find job postings on the Internet and repost them on their site. Placed in this context, the postings seem absolutely ridiculous.
However, these job ads do exist, and I’m sure that people do respond to them. Who are the people responding to the ads? Perhaps the people willing to take unpaid writing positions are the ones that don’t have a lot of writing experience or who can’t get paid writing jobs elsewhere. Therefore, if media outlets can’t pay their writers, the quality of writing will be less than ideal.
The writers who contribute to Too Shy to Stop are not paid. I wouldn’t ask anyone to contribute unless they felt they were developing their skills, first and foremost. At the same time, I do have to lower my expectations: my contributors have other priorities, many are just starting out in the writing field, and some are just trying to build their online portfolios so that they have samples to show potential future employers.
If no media outlets of the future will be able to pay their writers, how then can we all work together to make sure that everyone is benefiting from the experience? How can we attract the talent without monetary compensation? What do writers have to gain from working for free? How will they be able to survive? Should they enjoy some other special privileges to make up for the lack of money? How can we convince the public to value writers in general?
What if ALL journalists/writers (good and bad) just decided to stop putting up with it?