Tag Archives: freelancing

Data journalism’s commissioning problem

Square peg in a round hole

Data journalism is still a square peg in a round hole when it comes to commissioning. Image by Yoel Ben-Avraham

Peter Yeung has a good point: why is it so difficult to get editors to pay for data journalism?

In a series of tweets we tried to find some answers.

Firstly, commissioning isn’t set up for data journalism. Editors instead try to fit it into established structures for commissioning text-based news and features, with the result that:

a) The pricing doesn’t reflect the work involved; and

b) Any interactivity and visuals become incidental to the process instead of integral.

And yet the value of data journalism has been repeatedly proven, and organisations are spending money on it: just not on commissioning. As Yeung added:

“I find it strange publications invest in data editors and journalists, but not data budgets”

The FT’s Martin Stabe suspected it wasn’t just a data journalism problem:

“This probably extends to lots of digital-only content, not just data journalism.”

A related problem is the lack of standardisation in data journalism: there is no equivalent to the payment by wordcount which print journalists have so long worked by.

Instead, organisations ‘insource‘ data journalism work to internal teams, either data teams or ad hoc teams formed from existing personnel (think the MPs’ expenses or Wikileaks investigations…

…Or they ‘outsource‘ data journalism work to external agencies etc.

This is a problem also highlighted by Alfred Hermida in his research into Canadian data journalism, ‘Finding the Data Unicorn‘: only one job title showed up four times “and that was the general reporter/journalist category.”

That’s our take. What about yours? Why isn’t data journalism properly commissioned? And how do freelance data journalists get work?

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The future of journalism: Will journalists be paying out of their own pockets?

While talking to an editor at a newspaper that had made a splash with a crowdsourced investigative story a couple years ago, I remember the subject of payment coming up, to which she made an interesting point. The citizens who contribute their time and effort have a personal interest in the story and do it because they want to help the paper – this is a citizenry interacting with its hometown newspaper for the betterment of the community and for the good of democracy. It was a valid point. After all, if they paid their citizens, they wouldn’t just be citizens anymore, they’d be employees.

News organizations have long been excused from digital sharecropping, a label that has been attached to crowdsourced businesses that exploit free labor from the public without offering compensation. Perhaps, media entities benefit from the altruistic and democratic nature of information sharing. The millions of Internet users that voluntarily put content out for free are more than a testament to that.

But where should the line be drawn? When should news organizations and media conglomerates begin to have to start paying for utilizing the time and resources of their volunteer contributors while holding complete ownership of the product – or at the very least, making revenue off of an individual’s product? Continue reading

Conference for internet freelancers: Going Solo (Switzerland, Lausanne May 16)

Another Twitter lead led me to this one:

“Going Solo is a chance to learn how to do things like set your rates, make yourself known, close deals, find clients or let them find you, explain what you do to the world, find a life-work balance, or deal with administrivia in the networked world we web people work in.

“Who’s involved? Until we get a proper ordered list, here is a bunch of names (organisers, advisors, helpers…): Stephanie Booth, Elisabeth Stoudmann, Charlene Knoetze, Stowe Boyd, Suw Charman, Imran Ali, Stephanie Troeth, Sibylle Stoeckli, Martin Roell, Carlos Pacilio, Anne Dominique Mayor, Chris Brogan, and others…”

More here, including an early bird discount if you book by the end of March.