Alan Mutter, media venture capitalist and blogger, journalists need to stand together and stop giving away their services for free. In a blog posting that seems to be directed at the F. Warren Hellman-funded Bay Area News Project (which will use the free work of UC-Berkeley journalism students), Mutter says journalists should reject those who want to use their work for free:

    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 more empty calories you consume, the unhealthier you get. It won’t be good for our democracy – let alone our self-esteem as journalists – if we attempt to nourish vital local, state and national conversations with the journalistic equivalent of Ding Dongs and McNuggets. 
    The dangerous devaluation of journalism is the direct result of the contraction of the traditional media, which have idled tens of thousands of experienced journalists in the hopes of approximating their exceptional historic profitability. 
    The market is flooded not only with sidelined veterans but also with hungry, young journalists trying to land their first gigs (see also “Journicide: A Looming Lost Generation of Scribes”). This makes it easy for countless new media ventures, and even some of the older ones, to pick off writers, photographers and videographers on the cheap. 
    Such was the case last year when a freelancer got a measly $31.50 for a photo that ran on the cover of a Time magazine issue ironically devoted to “the new frugality.” The only way for journalists to fight back is to demand to be paid what they’re worth.

Here’s a link to Mutter’s posting.

Bay Area Media News


  1. I'm sure bad management has killed more papers than bad reporting. Still, we are witnessing reporter assisted suicide. I think the news media lost the public's trust decades ago when UPI was allowed to become moribund and AP captured a monopoly on gathering and distributing news. Power corrupts. The media became the bully on the block. News was what the papers, via AP, decided it was. Then computers came along and sped the process. There wouldn't have been Rush and such if print had been, no pun meant, fair and balanced.
    Now the bully is down and getting kicked. Too bad.

  2. Just to clarify, because this rumor has been floating around for a while with very little basis – the Bay Area News Project is NOT going to be using the work of journalism students for free. As we discussed at our info session at the UCB journalism school last week, we are working with the J-School to explore course credit and paid internships for students who want to be involved in the News Project.

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