Updated: May 10, 2020
I was asked to speak at the NUJ London Freelance Branch meeting last night about making a living as an online journalist. It followed a discussion I had with branch member and NEC veteran Phil Sutcliffe when he was preparing a briefing for members. I was wary of presenting myself as some kind of online guru – I have a suspicion there are too many gurus and too few people actually doing things in the online world. But I agreed on the basis that I had made a decent proportion of my living from online work when I was a freelance. So I opted to give a few examples of what I’d done and how I’d been paid; adding in a couple of points about the judgements I’d had to make. And I finished by posing a few questions that I thought might be useful – questions about liability online and about payment models.
It seemed to go down well, and in the discussion that followed the subject of how we define journalism – on whatever platform – came up. I still think it’s an important question for all sorts of reasons, and I think it’s one the NUJ and other journalism organisations need to be very involved in. I’m not talking about reviving the hoary old ‘is blogging journalism?’ debate, rather about defining skills in order to retain the best of what we had while at the same time embracing the new to best effect. And, not insignificantly, also in order to ensure that there is a recognised need for skills that we can be paid for.
A couple of years ago I had a debate around these issues with Simon Clarke, a journalist whose Freelance Unbound blog I’d recommend as essential reading, and who I’ve also taught with at UCA Farnham. After last night’s discussion, I thought it might be worth drawing attention to that debate again. So I’ve run the links to each post below, enabling you to follow the discussion as it unfolded. As always, I’d welcome any comments.