Last week’s Media 140 meeting in Sydney looked at the future of journalism and how publishers are paying, or rather not paying, contributors to their online publications.
The evening was well documented by Martin Cahill and the message was clear — publishers are not going to pay for content because even if they want to they can’t afford it.
The prevailing view was journalists will have to learn how to multi task; but given YouTube is even more poorly rewarded than online journalism, it’s unlikely sites will be any more generous to video or audio contributions than they are to text contributors. Which only suggests a future of journalists doing more work for no money.
Valerio Veo, Head of SBS News and Current Affairs Online pointed out SBS is paying a 19 year a $1000 per contribution for covering Obama’s visit to Indonesia.
Ignoring this is pocket money in terms of sending a camera crew and traditional reporter, the fact SBS are one of the few Australian organisations paying online contributors suggests ABC Managing Director, Mark Scott’s, view at a previous Media140 that only government supported organisations will be able to afford to pay journalists is part of the future is correct.
So what is the future of professional journalism? Will it be restricted to a few subsidised outlets? Is it the gifted amateur contributing for their love of the masthead? Or is it that of the professional pushing their own or their employer’s agenda?
Maybe journalists will become editors cleaning up the shoddy contributions of not so gifted writers that have the only benefit of being free. Could it be that curating other people’s content will be the role of future journalists?
Or perhaps journalists are the new poets, starving in garrets and working in desperate jobs while waiting for the phone call from the ABC, BBC or PBS, penning great works that will lie undiscovered on obscure blogs which will only be found after their passing?
We didn’t really glimpse the answers at Media140 and this is an important discussion to have as the rise of the digital sharecropper isn’t confined to journalism.
Many professional and white collar occupations are going the same way and we need to understand what this means for large parts of our economy. Even if we choose not to discuss it, it’s the reality we face.