Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

“Why journalists deserve low pay”

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on May 20, 2009

Fascinating article thrown my way through Twitter today: “why journalists deserve low pay“.

As a journalist, on low pay, I was immediately angered by the title. And therefore had to have a read. Annoyingly its author, Robert G. Picard, makes perfect sense. This is not so much an article on why journalists deserve low pay (for now); rather a thesis on the very reason journalism, as a concept, is struggling for breathe.

Broken down it says:

Economic value is rooted in worth and exchange. It is created when finished products and services have more value – as determined by consumers – than the sum of the value of their components.

That’s the first time I’ve seen what I do broken down into its raw economic terms.

These benefits used to produce significant economic value. Not today. That’s because producers and providers have less control over the communication space than ever before,

So the reason newspapers aren’t making money, and radio & TV are losing money: they’ve lost their economic value.

Journalists are not professionals with a unique base of knowledge such as professors or electricians. Consequently, the primary economic value of journalism derives not from its own knowledge, but in distributing the knowledge of others. In this process three fundamental functions and related skills have historically created economic value: Accessing sources, determining significance of information, and conveying it effectively.

This too has been diminished by the internet and social media. So not only has journalism lost its value, so have journalists.

Today all this value is being severely challenged by technology that is “de-skilling” journalists….until journalists can redefine the value of their labor above this level, they deserve low pay.

It’s so refreshing to see our profession reduced to its raw bones; and until we solve these core issues of value in what we do, no pay-wall or subscription fee will save us.


5 Responses

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  1. Bliss said, on May 24, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    I read this article as well and wrote about it on my blog. Even though I didn’t appreciate the title, it was an excellent article. As a new media journalist (I primarily work in web based multimedia, emphasis in video), I pretty much see what he’s talking about first hand. My dilemma as of now is using the web to my advantage, which will be virtually impossible without revamping of the industry of some sort.


  2. […] Diferentes maneras de justificar la precariedad: “Por qué los periodistas merecen un salario bajo”. […]

  3. Gregory Ferenstein said, on May 29, 2009 at 2:03 am

    I disagree: everyone is struggling to make the Internet profitable. The Journalists I know are passionate, hardworking individuals who begged their editors to promote a stronger web strategy. I wrote about this as an Expert Blogger for Fastcompany. I think Picard ignores some core issues brought on with the Internet.

  4. behnnie said, on May 31, 2009 at 7:37 am

    I think what I find so refreshing about your posts, about your approach to journalism as a whole, is that you really do cut through the bullshit and go straight for the heart of the matter, even at times where others in your position might be inclined to become defensive in a purely reactionary way.

  5. Harry said, on March 10, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Nice article, was curious if you would permit me to link to it in a post im currently writing for my own site?

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