I’m thinking of adding a third story on to my house. Since I have this column, allow me to solicit anyone who does such work. I’ll also need a bathroom, so not just carpenters and architects, but plumbers too. It’s a really great project, but I don’t have any money. Instead, I’ll let you work on my house and it’ll be a great experience for you. I’ll tell everyone about what a great job you did, so it’ll be a strong sample of your work. Also, I’ll need you to not just do the work, but provide all the supplies and materials. Maybe if I someday sell my house and there is enough profit made to cover all of my expenses, I might be able to pay you a percentage from that sale, but no guarantees.
Sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? Yet, I have witnessed much of society take this exact same attitude toward the creative professions. Societally, many are reluctant to pay for the arts, whether it’s a logo or website for their business, entertainment or even the news. As a society, we are consuming more creative work now than ever before with the advent of digital content, e-readers and streaming channels.
Having worked as a creative professional for nigh on 20 years, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been offered a job that wouldn’t pay me actual money, but promised to be a “great learning experience,” or a “fantastic portfolio piece” and even “a labor of love” and “good exposure.”
As acclaimed cartoonist Rich Stevens has said, “people die of exposure.”
The creative professions require training and skill as much as any other, so why do people think they don’t need to pay for the fruits of that labor? The people who do these jobs need to eat, pay bills and live. Creating art and content is a job. We don’t ask any other profession to do their work for free, so why the creatives?
Recently, The Newsleaders, has begun providing small daily news stories on its website for a nominal fee. These are stories that are unlikely to reach the print edition because of timeliness. We will also start providing more rich multi-media content on our site, such as more photo galleries and video. The Newsleaders has been a free news source for nearly all of its 30-year history, but that doesn’t mean the people who create it work for free. This is our job. Just like you go to work, we come to work and make a newspaper. It’s distributed to you for no cost because our business model so far has been to generate revenue solely through ad sales. All of us who work here do it to support our families just like you work to support yours. We want to provide you with more news more frequently, but we need to get paid to do that, hence our new subscription content.
It should be reiterated that all the usual free content is still free online; all the stories that appear in the paper, obituaries, blotter and public notices. Besides the more frequent daily news and multi-media content, subscribers also can download a PDF of the paper, something we haven’t provided for nearly a year.
Work has value. Your work has value and so does mine. Art is a “real job” as much as being a teacher, lawyer or a factory worker is. Still, I’d love a third story on my house… no pay, but great exposure.