I recently received an email update from the Professional Writers Association of Canada, of which I am a member, about a new initiative the London Free Press has announced. The initiative, announced in an article titled Make your voice heard in paper involves collecting stories from readers through a tool called Your Scoop. The paper is encouraging people to play the role of amateur reporters:
“C’mon, admit it, it has crossed your mind while mulling the paper over your morning coffee: Reporter . . . that would be a cool job,” Joe Ruscitti writes.
The article states that they are not lowering their journalistic standards just so that amateur writers can “get [their name] in the lights.” They’ll have their amateur journalists work with a real journalist to get their material up to snuff. The goal?
“We hope by year’s end to have a kind of living body of work that the city’s politicians and business, non-profit and emerging leaders can turn to as the collective will and hopes of the people — you and I.”
While the idea sounds warm and fuzzy, a few Canadians writing associations (and I) are concerned about what this initiative, and other initiatives like it, means for professional journalists. Freelancers have already had an ongoing battle with budget cuts due to the recession, which means much of the writing is being done by staff that are already overstretched. Their salaries cover the cost (while they work overtime) and freelancers are left without new opportunities.
With Your Scoop, professionally trained and dedicated journalists risk the chance of losing their paper space to a group of (unpaid) amateurs, who will be out interviewing their neighbours over the hedge as they mow their lawns.
That’s what Letters to the Editor are for.
To read the PWAC’s response to the London Free Press, click here:
To read the Canadian Freelance Union’s response to the London Free Press, click here.