Does online media devalue writers?

Posted by: Annika Peick

Aggregator sites have been accused of providing contributors with little to no compensation for their working and undermining the validity of online journalism. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

As all journalism majors know, blogging and different forms of media are becoming essential for the realization of success in our respective career fields. This semester I was required to start my own blog from JMC91 and to contribute to this one for JMC 70, exposing me to a whole new realm of journalistic expression. I have also begun to read several blogs on aggregating sites such as the Huffington Post and Tumblr. With AOL’s recent acquisition of the Huffington Post, however, several articles have surfaced discussing whether online media is fair to writers who contribute their pieces free of charge.

According to one article by GOOD Magazine, freelancers who contribute to the Huffington Post have recently become even more critical of the site’s creator, Arianna Huffington, claiming that her actions are devaluing online reporting. Though Huffington is not the only site owner that offers contributors no compensation for content, groups of freelancers are calling her out, and rightly so. In fact, Huffington recently wrote a book in which she claims middle class Americans are an “endangered species” who should be protected from dying out. How is accepting a $315 million buyout from AOL on top of her already astronomical $4 million annual salary and refusing to share any of that huge sum with contributors working to protect the American dream?

Though I can see merit in the above argument, I must also play a bit of devil’s advocate on this issue. In an article entitled Content Farming: Is Online Media Just a Digital Sweatshop?, author Matthew Ingram makes the valid point that writers who contribute to sites such as the Huffington Post are choosing to contribute of their own accord. Many people who contribute to aggregator sites, though lacking in the monetary department, are compensated in increased traffic through their websites and name recognition/exposure. Though we live in a society strongly based on the value of a dollar, our career as journalists also heavily depends on networking and putting our name out there for people to hear.

What is your opinion on this issue? Do you believe contributors should be monetarily compensated for pieces submitted to aggregator sites? Or do you think the brand building and ego boost they receive from submitting pieces is compensation enough for their work?

3 responses to “Does online media devalue writers?

  1. I do think contributers should be monetarily compensated. An ego boost is nice and all, but it will not allow them to make a living. The brand building is definitely a positive but I do think writers deserve compensation. Writers don’t make a lot of money as it is so every little bit can help.

  2. I don’t think contributors should be monetarily compensated unless they were told they would be. Though it’s a different scenario, I don’t expect to be paid for my blogs or tweets, so what right do I have to be upset that WordPress or Twitter doesn’t pay me? If people want to be paid for their work, they need to seek that out. Working for pay causes people to take their work and job more seriously. The opposite is true as well. If I know I’m not being paid for an article or job, I won’t work as hard as if I was being paid. The articles would probably be better quality if companies like the Huffington Post were paying their writers. But, all the same, it’s a company, and they are just after money.

  3. Pingback: Don’t devalue yourself

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