Reporters as waiters (or the joy of tipping)

By Steve Outing

We all know that journalists are poorly paid, in general, and long have been. Now with news companies laying off staff and cutting wages of those remaining, it’s even worse. That got me thinking about my last blog post about a new tipping system that allows a reader to tip a specific writer for an article. (Many other reader-contribution systems focus on how to fund an entire news organization, or parts of it, or blogs and other websites overall rather than specific articles.)

So perhaps this is a worthwhile idea for a strapped news organization. Allow readers to “tip” reporters for a specific article, and let the writer keep the money just like restaurant waiters keep their tips. If the beleaguered news industry can no longer afford to pay its journalists decently, perhaps the poor scribes should start acting like waiters and learn to accept reader cash tips.

We might want to start this at the Boston Globe, since its journalists are about to have a 23% salary cut forced upon them. … Either that or squeezed journalists can get a second job as a waiter at a nice restaurant.

(Note: Perhaps my sarcasm is too subtle here, based on some reaction received. Does this post need a sarcasm emoticon? 😉 )

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!

4 Responses to "Reporters as waiters (or the joy of tipping)"

  1. Steve Farrell
    Steve Farrell 8 years ago .Reply

    Hi – I’m the creator of payyattention. I think there are some similarities of our approach to tipping – it is voluntary and light weight. However, there are also differences – the recipient is the originator of the good, not providing a service in association with it; the scale is much different (a single media item – of course – can be viewed by millions); and, most importantly, the payments are aggregated to promoting the content, making it visible to more people, and buying attention for it.

    In short, I don’t think the analogy to the restaurant business sheds much light on the potential of our approach. If I were to compare the interaction with something familiar, I’d say it’s like Digg (hence the double ‘y’) with user money. Each payy is a vote for the article and a payment to the author in cash. Unlike digg, the finances are intrinsic, not handled indirectly through ads.

  2. Steve Outing
    Steve Outing 8 years ago .Reply

    Steve: As noted in my endnote, I was being flip (or trying to be) in this blog entry when applying it to the mainstream news industry. I do think your approach could be useful for individual bloggers and independent content producers. I’d love a mechanism for this blog where a reader could tip me if they liked a specific post, and that was automatically added to each item I publish. (Hope you have a WordPress plug-in!)

    I’ll be pretty surprised if any newspaper or other mainstream news institution lets readers give individual cash tips to writers or photographers. It would strike them as unseemly, I imagine.

    Good luck with your project and I look forward to speaking with you and learning more about it.

  3. Ahmed Naser
    Ahmed Naser 8 years ago .Reply

    I think what has happened is that newspaper owners have just become too greedy. Its not that sales are down, and look carefully at the numbers, its just plain greed. The interests of a few gluttonous owners at the expense of the core element, reporters and editors.

    A better approach would be co-ops, owned by reporters and editors with business managers on salary, and everybody sharing the commission… that an more innovative news products and newer ways of distribution.

  4. sts
    sts 8 years ago .Reply

    this is good idea for reporters, agree with you

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