Posts tagged ‘Sydney Morning Herald’

Tweeting easier than getting paid in a crowd sourcing age

Day One, Media140 Sydney “Future of Journalism in the Social Media Age” conference, 5th and 6th November 2009.

As someone whose work includes freelance writing, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Media140 Sydney.

I was keen to discuss the implications of non-fiction writers and alternative/freelance journalists using social media. What ethical, practical, legal and professionalism issues are involved with using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, You Tube etc to find story ideas, sources/experts, editors and story outlets?

I was hoping to hear critiques of social media. What are the downsides of managing data through “collective intelligence applications”?

Are there minefields involved in freelancers using the same communities of connected users for background research and fact-checking as they use to market and promote themselves? How can a lone operator who is unfairly attacked on a widely-known blog respond effectively? And where does community media fit into all this?

I was also keen to discuss the political economy of social media. Public broadcasters such as the ABC and the BBC are crowd-sourcing unpaid contributions from the public to broaden their sources, but how does this affect freelancers’ ability to make a living? This is happening while newspapers such as the Sydney Morning Herald replace columns written by paid journalists with unpaid “contributor columns” such as Heckler and opinion sites such as On Line Opinion do not pay contributors.

Valerio Veo said in his presentation, “Savvy journalists who are on top of this trend can leapfrog many budding bloggers” but how many can translate this credibility into cash?

Few of these topics were discussed though, including the question of the effect of crowd sourcing on freelancers’ income. Instead, Day One presenters talked about why more journalists should be on twitter, but the mainstream news and political reporters they were discussing are a tiny minority of the field.

Journalists are more likely to be writing for the likes of the Earthmover and Civil Contractor than reporting Question Time, and they are increasingly likely to be freelancers who are already enthusiastic tweeters.

Freelancers write lifestyle, make-up, fashion, travel, careers and gardening articles and columns and blogs.

They create opinion, humour, self-help and astrology columns. They write or edit or photograph for industry publications, banks and insurance company newsletters and union journals. They review cars, toys, TVs, books, restaurants and computers wherever they can find someone to pay them. They write about Second Life and they make documentary films.

The alternative journalism field includes activists who might write journalism for free but prefer to be paid. How is a present-day George Orwell to make a living?

Margaret Simons’ “disinterested journalism of integrity” is produced by trained, experienced freelance journalists as well as mainstream news reporters. However, is it likely that freelancers will produce high quality journalism if they are not paid for it?

(Since the conference there has been discussion about this. See The future of the ABC and of journalism.)

Things became more interesting when social media producers took the stage for the “Do journos do it better?” session, However, Stilgherrian in “What do journos do better, exactly?” spoke of “capital-J journalists” in media factories and everyone else out in social media communities.

There was little acknowledgment that many freelance journalists are out there energetically self-publishing and participating in social media communities already, going by their presence on twitter, on blogs and commenting on forums. To me, the division between freelance journalism, social media and citizen journalism is already quite porous.

Dave Earley’s list of 501 Australian Journalists and News Media People on Twitter demonstrates the range involved in his “Australian media people on Twitter”.

Although being at Media140 Sydney was interesting and enjoyable, by the end of Day One I was not sure I’d made the right decision in coming along at all.


November 19, 2009 at 7:21 am Leave a comment