I read Janet Paskin’s story The Velvet Rope in the Columbia Journalism Review this month and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Basically, she lays out the primary reason journalists like to see their name in print — they get paid more for it. This is, for me, a point of frustration.
I like to think that good journalism is not a thing of the past. I like to think that the web is where it’s going to be at for journalism for the foreseeable future. If the industry is serious about online and good online journalism, it needs to back that up with money.
Yes, yes, I understand the laws of supply and demand. I understand that there is lots of content online that is supplied for free or cheap. News organizations are floundering to identify a business plan that works in a drastically disrupted market, and it is money that news organizations are primarily after. Good journalism, in the list of priorities, comes in a distant second.
It seems to me, though, that this is a moment in which resolve is needed. A mentality shift is needed. Instead of outlets using the online-only status of a story as a reason to pay a reporter less, they should pay reporters an equal amount. If the work is of the same caliber, why not? It does, after all, cost less to publish on the web. This shift in pay and status seems to me an important part of the necessary industry shift. Major outlets — that’s right, New York Times, Washington Post, New Yorker — should take the lead.