It's been an odd last several months here at Open Media Boston; so I thought I'd just catch folks up on what we're up to. And talk about a new program we're trying out that I think will generate some interest among underemployed journalists in our fair city. Regular OMB viewers will recall that I've been finishing up my MFA in Visual Arts at a local university. My increasingly large thesis artwork has been demanding at times - forcing me to stop most of my editorial duties for several weeks thus far this year. Plus I became an adjunct professor in communications this semester, which has taken even more time out of my schedule. Although we've continued to publish fresh material most every week as normal. I recently took a six month thesis extension to make my life easier and spend more time on OMB again until I graduate (knock wood) in June. Which is great, but I still need more help to make sure that we have articles in our news section every week.
Since the fundraising climate has improved in the last year, I've come up with a rather obvious solution to the problem of filling OMB's "news hole" more consistently.
We're going to pay $50 per article for two articles every week for the next three months - as a trial run to see if it results in the hoped-for steady stream of solid news articles. It's the best we can afford to pay, and sadly is pretty much in the ballpark of the market rate paid by the diminishing number of commercial news publications that still bother to pay their reporters anything at all. The trend in the news industry has been to try to get as much content as possible for free from all comers - and then to sell ads on that content. Increasing profits for CEOs and investors ... and putting more nails in the coffin of the American news media every year.
While most of our content has been produced by volunteers over the nearly five years of our existence, we're a relatively small non-profit news publication that we started with zero money down. I've drawn a stipend for the last three years, and we have sporadically paid other staffers when we have extra money. Everybody who works with us does so with eyes open, and everyone is encouraged to help raise money for OMB; so we can pay more people more often. It's a collective effort, and we do it in the service of the communities we cover.
Commercial outlets - some of them quite large - don't have the excuse of being a small non-profit with a largely volunteer group of committed staff and contributors working in the public interest. And yet they make a virtue out of screwing would-be reporters with promises that giving away their work will "look good" on their resumes. Or maybe result in an actual job at some unspecified point down the line.
That bad karma is on their heads, I guess.
But - to get to the point - we now have enough money in the OMB kitty to be able to up our game a bit.
So. Two reporters writing one piece each for $50 a week. That's what we're able to do.
And we invite all aspiring and established reporters to consider working with us.
Here's the catch: if you want to work for us for pay, you have to be a trained journalist. Training can mean any number of things, but at base you have to have at least a couple of published hard news articles that you can show us. We need your resume and at least the two clips. So get that stuff together and email them to my attention at info [at] openmediaboston [dot] org if you're interested to work with us. Put REPORTER CANDIDATE in the subject line to be sure I notice it amid all the spam emails we get at that address.
And make no mistake, if you want to work for OMB as a paid reporter, you have to know what you're doing. We know $50 isn't much money. So we're looking for people that can crank out news content fast. People that don't mind having their work edited, but whose work doesn't need much editing. Because they know what they're doing. Which is, like, a virtuous circle. We want people who can take an assignment - or offer one of their own - go out in the field, cover something, go home, do follow-up work, write up a story, and submit it.
Bang, bang, bang, bang. A couple hours in the field. A few hours additional work. A brief edit. Done. We publish it, and move on to the next story.
If you're someone who can take a nice photo to go with your article, even better. If you're a trained audio person or videographer and can cut a short audio or video news piece in the same time frame as a text reporter, even better.
If you're a journalism student, or interested amateur, and you're not fully trained, we are willing to accept a small number of interns at any given time. However, since interns usually need training and we're a small operation, we can't handle more than two or three at once. Regardless, if you're interested in an internship, just email me your resume and any clips you have to the same email address above - and put INTERNSHIP CANDIDATE in the subject line. We've happily worked with a number of accredited educational institutions in the past; so it's totally fine (and, in fact, encouraged) if you want to fulfill internship requirements at your college by working with us. We'll also consider high school interns. But based on our past experience, high school interns need to be like super focused and organized to work with us. Just fyi on that one.
That's it. I hope we'll get some talented new folks come forward to work with us. And naturally, past OMB news reporters are welcome to participate in this new initiative.
And remember, the more content we publish the bigger our audience. And the bigger the audience, the more money we can raise. And the more money we can raise, the more we can pay our reporters. We're not aiming to stop with two news articles at 50 bucks each every week. Our goal has always been to pay a living wage to as many people as possible. Including me (d'oh!).
Jason Pramas is Editor/Publisher of Open Media Boston ... and an MFA Visual Arts candidate ... and an adjunct professor ... he'd kind of like a vacation sometime soon ...