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Why journalists need to be paid

Journalism—as many of us at The Concordian know—is a competitive field with very few jobs available. Just recently, the Montreal Gazette announced it would be laying off more workers in the near future, according to the Financial Post. So with fewer and fewer jobs available, aspiring journalists will do anything to get ahead and that includes free labour.

Graphic by Florence Yee

Graphic by Florence Yee

It’s a conversation some of our editors here at The Concordian have had with the journalism department. Some professors believe unpaid internships are the way to go to gain experience, while others are adamant that we should all be paid for our work.

On Jan. 27, ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell sparked a lengthy conversation on Twitter after suggesting the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper ask students at Northwestern University to cover college basketball games for free. After numerous tweets telling him he was wrong for suggesting a publication should have students work for free, Rovell replied saying some of the best journalists got their start while doing so.

While this may be true, there is certainly a disconnect between the journalism of today and the journalism of the past. For starters, you just has to attend any journalism seminar in the country to learn that newsrooms are shrinking.

With the pressures of paying rent, food and tuition, finding time for an unpaid internship is close to impossible. If the only way to become successful in the industry is to become an unpaid intern, then only the most privileged people would be able to get ahead.

In Montreal, one of the places that offers unpaid internships is Bell Media. While these internships offer valuable experience that could make good journalists great, for some people, they simply aren’t an option.

Another dilemma young journalists face is the choice between exposure and money when it comes to freelancing. In an article by the International Business Times, Huffington Post U.K. editor-in-chief Steven Hull admitted to not paying writers for work.

“If I was paying someone to write something because I want it to get advertising, that’s not a real authentic way of presenting copy,” Hull said. “When somebody writes something for us, we know it’s real, we know they want to write it. It’s not been forced or paid for. I think that’s something to be proud of.”

Attitudes like the Huffington Post’s are tricking young journalists into writing for free. Asking to be paid is not disrespectful, it’s what you should be doing. If you are a journalist and your article is next to an ad, then in some way, shape or form you are making money for that publication and should be paid for it. Even if the publication you write for doesn’t have a huge budget, you should at least get a little something for your hard work.

Now you must be reading this and thinking “does The Concordian pay their writers?” The answer is no. Call us hypocrites, call us horrible names and compare us to Huffington Post, because we 100 per cent know we’re in the wrong.

As an editorial team, we unfortunately do not have the power to grant monetary bonuses to our contributors—our board of directors is in control of the finances. We’d like to end this editorial by asking our board to start providing financial stipends to our writers who demonstrate hardwork and consistency.

It’s time The Concordian emerges from this deep slumber and start dishing out some of that money buried deep in our swollen coffers.

As young journalists we shouldn’t have to settle for less just because our older contemporaries did. It’s 2017 and media corporations (including your university newspaper), needs to get with the times.

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