Show Me the Money

From the blogs that I follow, there are many different concerns and issues involving citizen journalism. However, I have noticed one common theme that everyone seems to address-it’s the dreaded question of “Am I actually getting paid for this?” And unfortunately, 9 times out of 10, the answer is NO.


Photo Courtesy: WatchDog Wire

So, if money is not the motive for citizen journalists, then what is? I can see the reason behind why they feel they should be paid, but there are also some professional and logistical concerns that need to be taken into account. This week, we are going to explore the push to pay citizen journos, and could and should this happen.

To begin with:

1. In a blog post by Poynter, Steve Outing suggests that media organizations need to offer some sort of monetary reward or incentive to  keep citizen journalists coming back and returning with fresh, new content. While offering straight-up cash might not be the best route, he suggests that companies offer free goodies, such as t-shirts, mugs, and station paraphernalia, to their best and frequent contributors. Personally, I see this as a great idea and I think it would encourage even more people to become citizen reporters because they then see that their work is worth something.

In another article, Outing adds that paying citizen journalists is nothing new. In fact, one of the earliest publications devoted to this type of reporting originated in South Korea. There, they have long paid their contributors for good, quality work. Sometimes, users can make up to $20 if their story makes headlines and becomes a top story. While this might not seem like a lot of money, it is still better than nothing. Whereas here in the U.S., this trend has not caught on. Nearly all citizen journalism outlets are seeking submissions for free.

2. The idea of paying for content that is of the best quality is something that news organizations might have to get used to. The idea is continuing to spread and circulate more every day and once people realize they CAN get paid, they are going to take advantage of that. As the blog Scholars & Rogues discusses, citizen journalists are merely handing over their own hard work and are allowing other organizations to take full copyright protection of it. The posts states, “‘Citizen’ in front of ‘journalist’ at the moment mostly means amateur.” If citizen journalists want to push past this, then they must figure out a way to effectively promote and sell their work, along with finding legal protections against it.

3.As the blog ReadWrite points out, the online revenue for quality is evolving. On the site Citizenside, users are encouraged to submit their newsworthy work to the site to make it available for purchase by major news outlets. This is a quick way for people to earn cash and receive their 5 minutes of fame. The company is based out of France and all media is verified before being posted to the site. During breaking news, this can be one of the most lucrative times for citizen journalists. For example, a man recorded John Galliano, the former head designer for Dior, as he was drunk and stared making racial assaults at a cafe in France. The video was posted to Citizenside and sold to media organizations across the globe. The company declined to state how much the contributor was paid but they said it was enough to “buy a really nice car.”

All in all, I believe citizen journalists deserve some sort of credit for their hard work and I think most of these blog posts reiterate that. Whether that be in the form of cash is hard to say. I think in breaking news situations, payments could be justified because the footage is going to be a raw, up-close personal account of what is unfolding. However, on a day-to-day basis it does not seem financially smart to be stashing over cash to regular contributors.

Now I want to hear from you guys. Do you think citizen journalists should be paid for their content? Should this payment come in the form of cash or something else? Or is this even realistic to consider? Let me know your thoughts!


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