Jennifer Brown and Aura Wilming I agree there will always be a need for journalists, but there certainly won’t be as many, and they’ll have to find creative ways to get paid. I like the nonprofit approach of outfits like Pro Publica, which does nothing but investigative journalism. There are also private investors paying teams of investigative journalists. And then you have models like Patreon and KickStarter, in which people pledge a certain amount of money per month for a specific project or pay a stipend or subscription each month for that writer’s monthly output. Or Blendle — I’m taking part in their beta testing right now — which aggregates journalism from a variety of sources, such as the NY Times, Time, Newsweek, Washington Post, etc., and you pay by the story — 25 cents for this story, 19 cents for that story, etc., with a money-back guarantee if you don’t think the story was worth the 15 cents you paid for it.
Three of the publications I’m writing and editing for on Medium and daCunha.global have just started paying the writers, and will eventually pay the editors, I’m told, a certain percentage (somewhere between 50% and 60%) of the money generated by monthly subscriptions. They make all the stories on their platform available to subscribers, and split the money (after overhead) between writers and editors. I should get my first check this month, we’ll see how small it is. I’ll also get a monthly residual check for agreeing to allow the publication exclusive publication rights to my stories for a year. So far I’ve sold four stories for which I’ll get paid. And I’m editing for two publications, one of which says they’re going to start paying editors soon. And certainly there are citizen journalists doing great work, but they’e not getting paid.
I started working at my first newspaper in 1988, so I had about 15 good years before things started circling the drain in the aughts. For the first half of my career I was learning the craft and the second half I was doing investigations and writing long-form serial narratives. I got to live my passion for a few years, but by the time I left in 2009 we were having rounds of layoffs every few months and we were down to about a fourth of the staff we had when I started at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 2000. It was bad for those who got laid off, but it was pretty awful for those of us who were left behind too. It felt like a funeral every day, so I finally left. And I’m really glad I left, too. Life outside journalism is pretty nice, too. Your life can get consumed by that job, which mine did. Worked too many hours, too many nights, too many weekends, too many holidays.