Forgotten, but Not Gone?

It’s nice of the BOP Times to include me in their new revamped Web site with my own little green tab (see screen shot below) under their “blogs” section even though I was let go a few weeks before Christmas so don’t write a column there anymore. The trouble is, none of the pieces next to the little green “Alison Mcculloch” tab are mine or have anything to do with me, being about 1. Half Ironman results 2. “Record road toll” (record low toll, as it turns out) 2. This being the 2nd best place in the world to get a tattoo, and 4. Exercising.

It’s also somewhat interesting that what are in some cases columns are now labeled “blogs”. I’m wondering if paid (contract, freelance or staff) columnists are being phased out in favour of community contributed (i.e. free) blog posts?

There are some interesting discussions to be had about working for free. I do it lots for causes I believe in, including some alternative journalism work, but they’re non-profits and/or non-corporates. You could argue this still undermines pay and conditions in the industry, and I can see that. But I’m pretty disillusioned about “the industry” and think alternatives are badly needed. So…I’ll keep doing whatever I can to support (some of) them., “The industry” is in the middle of a revolution right now, anyhoo, so no one really knows what’s going on or how things will turn out.

There was some talk not long ago on one of the journalism pages on Facebook about a contributor to one of the two big chains (those being APN, which owns the BOP Times, and Fairfax) who instead of being paid for an article of hers they published was told that getting a clip for her CV was payment enough. Everyone who chimed in seemed to agree that this was unacceptable and that freelancers needed to arrange payment up front. (As well as lamenting how pitiful NZ freelance rates are. True!) That’s a separate issue from the big chains making use of “the community” for free content, but nevertheless related I think. The newspapers say community content is about involving the readership and that’s valid to a point. (Funny how before the Internet and the decline of the industry, they didn’t seem quite as enthusiastic about this? Or am I misremembering?)  Beyond some as-yet unknown point, though, community involvement (aka community provided free content) is just community exploitation.

Nex question: If this is a trend, will it work? Will readers want stuff from their local newspaper they might just as well get from standing too long in a checkout line and listening to the rant du jour? We’ll see. If the papers do a good job of gatekeeping, they’ll likely get some good stuff in amongst the not-so-fine. But good gatekeeping (i.e. editing) also costs money, so you’re almost back where you started. Hmmm.

Screen Shot 2013-01-06 at 15.03.10

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