For the past several years we’ve watched around the country as newspapers one-by-one have offered early retirements and laid off countless numbers of employees. It’s a reality certain members in the blog community love and celebrate. Some of the exultation is because many bloggers and their clickers believe we’re the PR arm of the Democratic Party. Others like it because they don’t like how self-congratulatory we can be. I don’t think we’re the most self-important body out there, but we do believe ourselves pretty important to democracy, and rightly so.
Despite all that, I believe we traditional journalists will see the trends turn around. For one, most bloggers give it up before long. We had a fairly decent online site in our neighborhood that broke a story or two, but eventually couldn’t sustain itself. I run another blog for my job and am the chief writer for another one there.
I get paid to do it.
Besides the bloggers who drop off because they realize that writing regularly actually does take work, there are others who are rejecting the notion that they should write for free. Take, for example, this entry from a guy who spent years as a reporter and now has a blog dealing with mental health issues. He got an offer to blog on a site that would offer him more exposure, but pay him nothing. He began his response:
Thank you for your email and interest in my work. It’s been a long-standing dream of mine to write for free. I have 13 years as a paid professional print journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and has won two dozen or so awards for my work. I have graduate degrees from UC-Berkeley and the University of Utah and studied for a semester at Cambridge University as well. My work has been published in national, regional and local newspapers and magazines.
It gets even more snarky, and potty-mouthed, but his basic point is something I’m 100 percent on board with.
Part of my argument then was that no one will do for free the kind of journalism the Web 2.0 crowd thinks it’s creating. Journalism costs money. If you’re talking investigative reporting, it’ll cost more especially if there are loads of public records and lawyers at the party. If you just want to slap content around that sort of sounds like it’s floating around the truth in the half-informed commentary that the blogosphere is heir to–instead of being able to legitimately offer said truth–then I guess you can get it for free. But I’m not blogging for free for someone else. I can do that for myself quite nicely.
I blog here for free for a couple reasons. One, I like it. Two, I hope that one day it will pay, or at least be a marketing arm for other projects I do that do pay. I write now because I want something already established in place when lots of visitors do start coming. For now I’m content with Chad and Brant as the regular commenters and the lurkers from Stockton, Pocatello, Hillsboro and sometimes the Middle East.