Journalist Works For Free, Produces Great Work, Asks To Be Paid…

- - Getting Hired

Must be that time of the year/decade, because I can smell the schadenfreude in the air.

Mayhill Fowler is a Huffington Post blogger who claims to have written the “one big story out of the last presidential election to live on.” She understands that the business model for HuffPo is to “provide a platform for 6,000 opinionators to hold forth,” but you see, she did a piece of real journalism and would now like to be paid.

When Mayhill contacted Arianna and founding editor, Roy about making such a deal and was rebuffed she reproduced the email exchange on her blog and proceeded to wax on about citizen journalists getting preyed upon by millionairesses touting new-journalism puffery. Here’s your weekly dose of schadenfreude:

The dignity pay confers upon work.  I think this about sums it up.  So let this be a warning to you, citizen journalism enthusiasts.  In the end, what you are doing really is enhancing somebody else’s bottom line.  And think for a minute what it means when you throw yourself into working for a place, as I did, without first walking into the company’s human resources office to sign some paperwork that legally binds you and your employee to a relationship.

Read it all (here).

There Are 13 Comments On This Article.

  1. Well, duh. The publish first, get paid later model rarely works. If she did some higher quality work, she should have made it clear that she would offer it to Huffington for a price. Otherwise she intended to shop it around.

  2. In the response to this person’s complaint it was mentioned that her expenses were paid for buy the Huffington Post for the rest of the campaign. I think it has become convenient to forget this is a form of compensation.

    To the larger point for me: she knew what she was getting into and if letting her move on hurts the Huffington Post’s business than it was a bad decision. She wasn’t taken advantage of. Her value is not worth the compensation she is looking for to the Huffington Post.

    I feel for her and I understand the Huffington Post position. Sometimes it is just not a fit.

  3. Think it over at least 10 times before you give away your work for the promise of future consideration. “Never accept a job that won’t further your career.” – advice that I was given long ago and every time I broke from it, I paid.

    • Spot on Bruce.

      I just have no time for these people. On either side of the coin.

      I have told editors from various ‘online only’ editions to ‘get f_cked’ both over the phone and via email when they want content for free. I go ape sh_t at them. They now know never to call me.

      It just amazes me people have no foresight in life anymore. Everything is now now now instant gratification.

      When professional photojournalists bemoaned the onslaught of citizen journos, photogs and microstock from home part timers we did so coming from a really practical common sense place underpinned by economic rationalism.

      Did anyone listen? Not really. All we heard back was ‘Oh stop whining you are just jealous that we can do it better than you can….’ **rolls eyes**

      Fast forward a few years. Whats happened? Everything we said would happen did.

      Online publishers (and mainstream print for that matter) raped the ignorant. That was a no brainer.

      Citizen journalists photogs and microstockers found out that they needed ‘money’ to keep the ball rolling. The honeymoon is over.

      They now want to turn around and mount the exact arguments we all made to them a few years ago. They want to be respected, paid, given dignity that the profession deserves. Really???

      I mean its just hilarious if it wasnt so sad. We all saw it coming. We all tried to reason with these people. We tried to educate about demanding remuneration.

      Too few voices against the torrent of optimism and the inherent need in this culture for everyone to ‘be someone’.

      For too long people ‘romanticized’ the concept of being a journalist or photographer and when the barriers to entry collapsed they just dived head first into it without a plan much less the ability to command a wage.

      So we are now exactly where we thought we would be. We called it and it has arrived.

      You must drive your own content forward now. Either alone or via independent collaboration. You must own your content and must own the channels through which you communicate it. Gone are the days when professional journos and photogs didnt have to worry about the ‘fight’ for readership. The fight is on.

      That is the only way out. Completely independent production with far more complex collaboration arrangements not just between reporters and photogs but between freelance reporters, photogs, web designers, editors and online marketers. Each bringing expertise to a collaboration at every point of the communication channel. Each story is collaboration. Each collaboration is unique dictated by the power of the content.

      Its not pretty (cover your own expenses/put up your own capital). Its not easy *fight for your own loyal readership). But its the only way out (sustainable revenues and content control).

      Good luck and I will see you on the other side!

  4. schadenfreude has such a melodic voice creating a great visual and it brought to mind a picture of an elephant being backed up to a citizen journalist’s desk as the fingers pound away creating the days content. The and the image progresses the citizen journalist is drenched with the excrement of the day’s content in the elephant.

    The reality, we allow people to abuse us, some continue for their entire lives and others wake up from the stench. Her bad for giving up the free reportage, bad on Huffington for the greed.

  5. Huffington Post, and other companies generating revenue through unpaid content, appear to violate the Sherman Act and Clayton Act. They are functioning as a cartel by stifling competition.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Title_15_of_the_United_States_Code
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherman_Act
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clayton_Act

    When the level of unemployed and under-employed is so high in the United States, why does no organization, nor any official government agency, take action?

  6. Cynthia Smith

    Several other people started their post with the same word that instinctively came to my mind: DUH! Why would you work for free, and then think a big company would, out of the kindness of their hearts, pay you because they want to? And there are clearly at least 5,999 people who are just as dumb. Am I missing something here?

  7. How much damage can a moron bring to an industry. Soccer mom sending mails out of her iPhone (she doesn’t forget to mention it). This used to be something for people who were qualified. And qualified people need to be paid in order to support their families. Enter soccer mom. Now those qualified have to get another job as the jobs are going to the “I’m gonna be famous” wannabie. In a few days it’s going to be anoter sucker with an ego problem. Too old and fat to dream about being a model? Dream of becoming a succesfull writer… disgusting.

  8. Well people are dumb to say the least, look at CNN, ABC, CBS, etc. they all have a form of “citizen witness that reports” they get tons of photos, tons of videos, tons of stories for free!!!, they are to blame but also the dumb people who give away stuff hoping for their 15 seconds of fame… :/

    If she was serious about the piece she wrote she should have contacted a real news media to sell the story… not the freaking huff… :/ But more importantly the decline of most forms of media isn´t because it is printed on paper it is because they aren´t willing to pay for good journalists and writers anymore and all we get for our money is a bunch of cr@p written like it was reported by a 12 years old kid.