Should Citizen Journos Be Paid?

In my last post, I discussed the push to pay citizen journalists for their content. While this may seem like a great idea, it is still not accepted by many companies. It by no means is as easy as it seems, either. There are many things to consider before handing over a check to several contributors from the public. So today, we are going to explore the downsides to paying citizen journalists.

First off, providing payments to citizen journalists could be a nightmare for many news organizations. In terms of logistics, there is no effective way to pay all of these people. With the use of social media, it is most likely that you have never met this person and do not even know who they are. Companies could make a list of their top contributors and somehow give them a reward of some sort, but what about when breaking news occurs? This is when things get complicated.

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Photo Courtesy: Lauren McMillen

In fact, keeping track of all of your contributors could be a daunting task in and of itself. Journalists are very busy people and at the end of the day, they do not have time to make sure they have everyone’s information correct of who provides them reliable content or who could lead them to a good source.

Not only is the option of payments risky, but it has serious ethical concerns. According to the Society of Professional Journalists, they do not agree with this practice. It discredits the companies credibility and reputation. They also believe it builds a bad connection between the media outlet and the community. News organizations expect the public to provide them with information out of the desire to help make a difference or bring some change. But when money comes into the pictures, this shakes things up. Whether it be paying for sources or paying for an interview,  it is just a bad practice for companies to do. Plain and simple, it’s checkbook journalism.

In legal and financial terms, citizen journalists do not have the same protections as professional journalists do. Not only could what they post potentially cause a lawsuit, but the exchange of money between the two could be taken to court if not carried out properly. Image use problems can be a huge concern for many media organizations. This is why they must always verify that the user-genrated content is not infringing on someone else’s use or is violating copyright rules.

Overall, you get what you pay for. Just because the story is written well and intriguing, does not mean the same amount of work went into it. The actual reporting most likely lags because citizen journalists do not have the same kind of education as professional journalists. Also, one must consider how credible the information is and where the sources came from. It almost doesn’t seem fair for citizen journalists to get paid the same or even more than the professionals. If that was the case, then what would be the point of attending j-school?

Under certain circumstances, I think citizen journalists should be rewarded and potentially paid in small amounts, but there is no centralized system of how these payments would work out. Many media organizations are still trying to figure out how to use citizen journalists and how to best incorporate their content into newscasts. So I would say we have a long way to go before we see this type of content paid for by the professionals.

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