The newest bit of nonsense in journalism-world is this idea thatnonprofit organizations offering journalism students unpaid work is somehow unconscionable:
Robert Gammon, a longtime Bay Area reporter who works at Oakland’sEast Bay Express, wrote that the students’ work on the project
is “slave labor” that will make it possible for the effort to survive
and possibly thrive. “They’re giving themselves an unfair advantage by
relying on unpaid labor,” he elaborated in a phone interview. Instead
of following the model of many news organizations and hiring a few
unpaid interns during the academic year and more during the summer, the
project would “concentrate the unpaid work of students in one outlet
that would then compete against traditional outlets.”
might help the nonprofit venture — and the student workers — in the
short term, it will undermine the students and their chosen profession
in the future. “[T]he new venture promises to be bad for the public
over the long term,” Gammon wrote. “It’s true that the Bay Area likely
will experience an increase in local news coverage right away, but if
the new venture forces traditional news organizations to further
contract, then the public will be forced to increasingly depend on
inexperienced, unpaid students to inform them about what’s happening in
And you know, just fuck you, okay? So a few unpaid interns are okay, so long as they don’t become a threat of some kind? What the hell? A way of doing things is either okay or not okay, it’s not “okay for a few but in a group, dear God, Miss Scarlett, I never.” Either it’s fair to offer experience to students in an unpaid or low-pay environment, or it’s a disincentive for all news organizations to ever pay anything again. It can’t be okay for a newspaper but not for a nonprofit or startup. That’s not how Earth Logic works.
With regard to the salary and competitive arguments: Every large media organization gains ideas and stories from smaller ones where presumably the salaries are a lot less. Union papers steal stories outright from non-union papers and TV anchors do rip-and-read without credit or passing their million-dollar salaries down the pipe. This is how it has always worked. Funny we haven’t heard shit about it until now.
Am I thrilled about the idea of not paying people for their work? Absolutely not. But you know what? You could make this argument about every news organization that pays less than some other one, that they have an advantage and are driving the prices down. Yet somehow nobody did stand up for the small local papers the bigs used as farm teams, raped for their content and picked clean with little care or consideration, not until it actually might cost the bigger news orgs something. Then it’s all pearl!clutch and gasp!faint and it’s so transparent it makes me ill.