Journos aren’t helpless against market forces
The preponderance of comments – which apparently were authored (for free) by starving journalists – was quite favorable. Thanks, guys.
But the most interesting reaction came from people (here and here) who said journalists should quit bellyaching and continue working for free because they happened to be on the losing end of the supply-demand curve. Well, anti-bellyachers, I wholeheartedly disagree. And here’s why:
If journalists want themselves and their work to be respected, they are going to have to keep bellyaching – and withholding their services until they are properly compensated. It’s right to be paid a decent wage for your work. Walmart knows it. Starbuck’s knows it. And it’s high time that exploitive online publishers know it, too.
The nut of the anti-bellyacher argument is as follows:
It’s a shame that the old media can’t afford to retain many journalists. It’s a good thing that so many new media sites are emerging to showcase their work. Because there are more journalists available to work than dollars to pay them, journalists should accept the fact that the market is against them, quit bellyaching and get back to working for free — or something awfully close to it.
I readily stipulate that the traditional media businesses are hurting and that web start-ups provide a welcome outlet for latent journalistic expression. But I don’t accept the argument that journalists are powerless against the market forces arrayed against them.
The way to address the supply-demand imbalance is not to submit to ever-lower prices for your work, but, rather, not to work at all. If the supply of willing hands contracts, then publishers will have to pay up to fill their pages.
Empty pages mean diminished page views. Diminished page views mean reduced advertising revenue. Lagging traffic and sales will get the attention of the websites that exploit journalists.
It’s a tough call for anyone to balk at a too-small paycheck when the alternative is no pay at all. If selling your services at a discount is what you have to do to make ends meet, then by all means do it. And don’t give it a second thought.
But journalists have nothing to lose by not working for free. When you say no to exploitation, you have everything to gain in terms of enhanced self-respect.