Media website Mumbrella carries an account today of a conflict between an aspiring journalist and the Daily Telegraph's Joe Hildebrand. The dispute revolves around the aspiring journalist's 'disappointment' at not being paid and Hildebrand's refusal to publish the ungrateful wretch following his ungracious response to the news that he would not be getting paid.
The journalist's account, his email exchange with Hildebrand, and the lengthy comment stream, reveals a great deal of confusion.
For a start, neither Hildebrand or the journalist come out looking good in the exchange - a lot of unnecessary aggravation and cheap shots on both sides.
I've had a lot of op-eds and articles published in newspapers and on websites over the years and have had quite a few conversations about payment, a lot of the time I've been paid, a lot of the time I haven't. None of these conversations have ended the way this one did.
For a start, there a lot of occasions when you submit op-eds because you want access to the audience of these newspapers and websites. I've done quite a few of these on behalf of clients (and in their names) and it would never have occurred to me to seek payment for these pieces. Nor did I seek payment from the Australian for a commissioned op-ed a few years back because I was keen to use it to publicise my PhD research.
Then there are articles that require research etc and I have been paid by newspapers for a few of these over the years. I agree with some of the commenters on Mumbrella who draw the distinction between opinion and journalism, arguing that journalism should be paid for but opinion not so much. Though, this does raise a whole other debate about the value of the sort of stuff that gets passed off as journalism in our papers these days.
I've written oodles of stuff for websites over the years (including ABC Unleashed, Crikey, New Matilda, Online Opinion, The Conversation) some of them pay, some of them don't and some pay some contributors and not others. Really, it's up to each individual contributor to decide whether the deal offered (fame alone, fame and money, good money or poor money) works for them.
In reality, you're very unlikely to make a living out of this sort of stuff. And if you're hoping to get picked up as a full-time contributor by one of these outfits you're better off not pissing off people like Hildebrand no matter how rude he is.
If your goal is to use op-eds to get a full-time gig then you've pretty much got to treat it as an internship.