Feb 20 2012

Independent News – Not Journalism for Free

On the morning of the 29th April 2011, the day of the media extravaganza that was the royal wedding of William and Kate I had a bit of a rude awakening. A cheerful producer from Israeli Army Radio called at 5am to inform me the morning news program would like me to speak to their listeners within an hour. “How much do you pay?” I mumbled at the producer, most likely a conscript, top of his class, who passed the almost impassable tests and was among the young Israelis lucky enough to spend their compulsory military service In Jaffa. “Pay? We don’t pay, he said, we just want to have a chat with you”. I explained that I would not be having a chat with anybody at 6am, even if he was in my very bedroom. I’m not very chatty at dawn. Let alone a chat that necessitates getting out of bed and finding out a wealth of necessary details regarding Kate Middleton’s Dress, the guest list, the arrangement around town and the excitement among the natives, and various quotes from one royal or another.

I also explained that journalism is what I do for a living and that working for an agency that raises a flag for making sure journalists get paid for their work I could not possibly work as a journalist without getting paid. He seemed unconvinced.

It was not the first time. Any major event in London invokes such calls, be it, the G8, winter floods, or even diplomatic visits. The scene has repeated itself during the riots last summer. The idea that print journalists should treat broadcast work as a privilege rather than something they should be paid for seems to be well entrenched in the minds of many radio and television producers around the world.

In the last few years this bizarre notion had extended itself to the world of written journalism, when print journalists were constantly asked to write “blogs” for free. The highly successful Guardian blogosphere, Comment-Is-Free is founded on that premise, but with constant rattle and hum of discontent from the professional journalists among its contributors, the Guardian eventually started paying  £85 for each article (which is about a quarter of the fees paid for articles in the print edition). They also had to concede that a collection of now commissioned articles appearing online are not, by any stretch of the imagination, blogs.

Both freelancers and staff journalists are asked by newspapers and broadcasters to extend their contribution to photos, videos, podcasts, written versions of radio scripts, recorded versions of written articles and Twitter –  often for no additional pay. If you’ve done your research work for a feature story anyway, “you might as well” record it into a podcast, film it into a TV package, and do a few live Q&As while you are at it, no? Oh! Alright then, if you are so sure you want to be “greedy”, you will not “raise your profile”, and will remain forever anonymous….

The bedrock that founds GRN is our commitment to make sure journalists get paid for the work they do. We have come to realise that besides the main “product” that is our flagship – the live two-ways hit, our correspondents create many by-products – photos, videos, podcasts, TV packages, fixing services, technical services, and more. We are striving to assure that all those products are offered to our clients for a price, and that the reporters get paid for them. Even if a broadcaster would like to have a half an hour phone briefing with our correspondent without putting them on air, we make sure the correspondents get compensated for their time and paid for the knowledge they share.

We have thought long and hard before we decided to produce a few q&a hits with our correspondents via Skype every day and add them to our news advisory, as we knew we could not pay for it directly. But the last month or so has shown a dramatic increase in the demand by broadcasters for the correspondents whose work was visible online. We also witness a heart warming level of participation on part of the correspondents. We are excited to be able to expose our people, the best in the business, to our clients, the biggest broadcasters in the world, on a daily basis. And as ever we are adamant to make sure all involved will benefit from it.

1 comment

  1. Tim

    Good on you Daphna! Keep that flag raised.

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