In November, The Gazette’s Canadiens blog Habs Inside/Out launched a guest-blogging section in which they brought in four contributors whose only real expertise was that they were hard-core Habs fans and loved to write about it. Three of the four, in fact, blog about the Habs on other blogs.
Called the Other Wing, it’s a place devoid of news but filled with amateur analysis of the Canadiens. (I use the term “amateur” in a technical sense of unpaid non-expert, not in any derogatory Christian-Bale-like way.) Though the opinions don’t come from with any background of insider knowledge, they’re still well read because hard core Habs fans are insatiable information wolves who will stop themselves in the middle of sex to find out who’s in nets for the next game. Just look at the number of comments on Mike Boone’s liveblogging and other posts from a fan’s perspective.
This week, one of the more active contributors to the Other Wing quit, posting a final post in which she said that she couldn’t continue writing for free for a for-profit media outlet and a website that is getting millions of hits a month:
I write here as an unpaid volunteer, and I’ve been having some serious second thoughts about what that means for others. … In an age when my professional colleagues in the newspaper business are struggling to keep their jobs and keep their papers viable, a site like Inside/Out could be an important source of work for them. Therefore, I believe it’s wrong for me to undermine the work they depend upon for their livelihoods by providing content for nothing.
The contributor, Leigh Anne Power, is herself a paid journalist. She’s co-host of the CBC Radio morning show in Central Newfoundland, which makes note of her Habs fandom. And she blogs (for free) about the Habs on her own blog.
The post prompted quite a bit of reaction, including some argument over whether such contributions should be paid or not. One commenter who agreed with her even wrote a blog post of his own blasting Canwest and Boone (who’s on staff at the Gazette and so paid for his work – though he does sacrifice quite a bit for this labour of love).
I won’t comment on the merits of the argument since the website is run by my employer, but I’ll point to some arguments on both sides of the equation, taken from the comments attached to the post (it’s worth a read to see other opinions on the subject).
As long as the gazette is profiting from this site they should pay their contributors. Anything less is exploitative.
I don’t provide other media outlets with free content because that’s undermining my profession and preventing me from actually getting a paying job in the industry. Did you know that when you submit photos or comments to news sites, that outlet owns them at perpetuity and can reproduce them in more or less any shape or form… for ever… without EVER paying you? Even if your pic spearheads a national ad campaign that ends up bringing in a whole lot of money.
How can J.T. justify providing free content to the Gazette when her job might not be safe from people providing free content to her place of employment?
One thing you are perhaps undervaluing regarding providing free content to a media outlet like the Gazette is the exposure you receive. Blogs are a great way to express one’s opinions, build a portfolio, etc. But a blog that receives no traffic is not as useful as one that does. One way to build a reader base, as we have commonly seen here at this website, is to contribute a lot of thoughts and comments to a “mainstream” site while also linking to one’s own blog. Readers that like your comments will want to read more, especially if that contributor slowly begins to scale back their input to the mainstream site.
From the outset, the Other Wing was a spotlight for some of us fans to get a bigger spotlight for our comments based on whatever criteria the HI/O powers used, comments that were being made before in the general comments section prior to the creation of the Other Wing.
So what do you think? Is this journalism? Should these contributions be paid? Is Habs Inside/Out building a community or profiting off of it?