Freelance journalists should not work for organisations that don’t offer proper pay says an Irish-born multimedia journalist. Philip O’Connor, who is based in Sweden, was speaking at the Dublin Freelance Forum held recently in the capital. Good quality journalism is worth being remunerated for, he stressed, saying: “I don’t need exposure, I need the money”. It is, he continued, important for freelancers to refuse to cooperate with media outlets that do not adequately pay them for the service they provide.
Philip “fell into” multimedia upon relocating to Sweden and began his career in the print media, later moving to online journalism. He’s a very pro-active worker and, during the forum, reeled off a list of the prestigious media organisations that have benefited from his services in the past.
Philip sells “raw content” to news agencies/radio stations and leaves the rest to the discretion of the editors who receive his work. Despite having an enjoyable career, he says it puts him under “a huge amount of pressure”, adding that he is now more concerned with covering “international” stories. Operating as a freelance, for him, is “hugely stressful” but doesn’t want to work at anything else.
One of the problems Philip encounters in Ireland is when some media organisations do not sufficiently value what he does. He has had “desperate problems” getting paid by RTE, in the past, after contributing his work to the Irish broadcaster. It is important that journalists are given credit, so as not to leave them “in a vacuum”, he explains.
Brian O’Connell, a journalist on The Irish Times since 2003 and a regular contributor to Pat Kenny’s radio programme, told the forum that “simple economics” has led him to work in other areas of the media. This isn’t difficult as there is “no great crossover” for him between working in the print and broadcast media.
Brian recommends that freelancers syndicate their work and, during the forum, spoke about the rights and entitlements for those following that career path. There are “far more opportunities in broadcasting now”, he stated, and no one should feel tied down to any single media outlet. Another development he is positive about is networking. Unlike the past when journalists were “guarding their own patch”, these days everyone is helping each other out and this should be welcomed.
Journalists need to be thinking about how they can turn what they do into a business. There is evidence that more money can be made through using technology rather than by working with traditional forms of media. As a fledgling journalist, I found what Philip and Brian had to say inspiring. They, and the others who spoke at the forum, made me realise how daunting a task freelancing really is. It is akin to being your own boss – a sole trader, if you like, with the enormous pressure that it brings.