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Why journalists deserve low pay

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These benefits used to produce significant economic value. Not today. That's because producers and providers have less control over the communication space than ever before. In the past, the difficulty and cost of operation, publication, and distribution severely limited the number of content suppliers. This scarcity raised the economic value of content. That additional value is gone today because a far wider range of sources of news and information exist.

The primary value that is created today comes from the basic underlying value of the labor of journalists. Unfortunately, that value is now near zero.

The total value is the value of content plus the value of advertising. However, advertisers don't care about journalism – only the audience that it produces. Thus the real measure of journalistic value is value created by serving readers.

What are journalists worth?

Economic outcomes have traditionally held low priority for journalists. That's got to change.

Journalists are not professionals with a unique base of knowledge such as professors or electricians. Consequently, the primary economic value of journalism derives not from its own knowledge, but in distributing the knowledge of others. In this process three fundamental functions and related skills have historically created economic value: Accessing sources, determining significance of information, and conveying it effectively.

Accessing sources is crucial because information and knowledge do not exist as a natural resource that merely has to be harvested. It must be constructed by someone. The journalistic skill of identifying and reaching authorities or others who construct expertise traditionally gave journalists opportunities to report in ways that the general public could not.

Determining significance has been critical because journalists sort through an enormous amount of information to find the most significant and interesting items for consumers.

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