May Day: Stop Sharecropping: Occupy Journalism!!!

For April, Andrew Lih, Associate professor of journalism at USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism asked his fellow journalists participating in the Carnival of Journalism to submit a video in which they talked about a "dangerous idea got pushing the boundaries of journalism."  So I thought, I'd combine his charge with my celebration of International Worker's Day.

May Day is not only young girls dancing around be-ribboned poles. The celebration started as a commemoration of Chicago's 1886 the Haymarket Massacre during a general strike for the eight hour workday.  Mayday, of course, also is "mayday" used as a distress signal for aviators because it approximates the French term "m'aider", meaning "come help me!"

And journalism needs help. Melissa Bell of the Washington Post writes about the Print Reaper--you know Grim's cousin, "only he wields a pen, which is, of course, sharper than a scythe." Well, my dangerous idea for journalism is stop sharecropping: if you're not getting paid, keep your work. Raise crowdsource funding and publish it on your own blog or at non-profit publication such as Facing South.

Hey, journalism professors and book authors, I'm talking to you. You who see Huffington Post as a way to drive traffic. Who are willing to write op-eds free-of charge for The Guardian or The New York Times.

Imagine if community theater replaced Broadway. That's what's happening. It takes time and money to write well and in depth. Yet, so-called citizen journalism is driving the value of our work down to zero, according to the Future of News-ers. And, frankly, pro-am "collaboration" takes advantage of the amateurs.

Kind of reminds me of the exploitation of student athletes by universities. Except the chances for a well-paid pro career are even more remote.

Someone's getting rich off our efforts, but it's not us. In early April, Facebook bought Instagram for one billion dollars. That means a two-years-old, 12-person photo sharing app had a valuation which exceeded the 161-year-old, 1,300-person, New York Times by $80 million.

So mic check:

Stop sharecropping!

We are the 99%!

Occupy Journalism!


For their final project, Lih's students compiled a podcast summary and video highlight reel.  Responses came in from a variety of other journalists, such as:
  • David Cohn (founder of Spot.us and founding news editor of the new project cir.ca)
  • Jack Lail (MultiMedia Editor for the Knoxville News Sentinel)
  • Marc Lavallee andMatt Ericson (Interactive News and Social Developer  and deputy graphics director, respectively at The New York Times)
  • Edith Yang (Online Marketing Director at Buzzsmith Marketing)
  • Cindy Royal author of Gendered Spaces and Digital Discourse: Framing Women's Relationship with the Internet)
  • Steve Outing (who wrote the “Stop The Presses!,”) column for Editor & Publisher Online and now directs Digital Media Test Kitchen at the the University of Colorado)
  • Dani Fankhauser (director of engagement for Flud social news reader app) and
  • Mike Roe (Web Producer at Southern California Public Radio)