Saturday, August 14, 2010

Can journalists work for free?

A dream come true. Journalists work for free and the news websites can use huge teams devoted to any kind of investigation and do as well as print newspapers.
A dream or a nightmare? Every time people on the web have tried to use bloggers and all kinds of free contribution, the result has been disastrous. Biased and unverified informations, falsified pictures or videos have filled the gap.
The 3 French pure players face this quandary. Rue 89 is free and counts on advertising and services to finance its competent but small staff. Mediapart is accessible through subscription but, in spite of the scoops on Bettencourt affair, its subscribers are too few and quite old. works with retired journalists from le Monde and experts who contribute for free. None of them can use well paid professionnal journalists who could keep away from their computers to look around in France or abroad.
Still there is some hope that comes, as usual, from the West, i.e. the US. Some pure players like Huffington Post or Politico are breaking even and recruit desaffected journalists from the best newspapers, the Times or the Washington Post. They use advertising and subsidies from private foundations. They also try, like Rue 89, to publish print weeklies or monthlies. And yet, nobody can hire, for the moment, 250 people like le Monde or 1000 like the N Y Times.
This story is far from over.