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Yahoo! You Witness News and Work for Free

Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 3 months ago

Yahoo! You Witness News and Work for Free

Blog from January 12th, 2007 - www.JoshWolf.net/blog


Verne Kopytoff’s December 5th article in the S.F. Chronicle leads "Yahoo Inc. and Reuters Group want to transform camera phone owners into photojournalists;" nothing could be further from the truth. While at first glance the news that the two media outlets "are teaming up to showcase photos and video submitted by the public" seems like cause for celebration, it is nothing more than an attempt to exploit free labor.


If the companies really wanted to transform camera phone owners into photojournalists, they would be announcing at minimum some form of online training. to help their user base to snap newsworthy photos. Although they frequently lack formal training, these camera phone jockeys are already photojournalists – they may not broadcast, but their friends and family are a loyal audience. This is not a program to help build an army of photojournalists; it is an opportunity to seize the existing labor without expending any money in licensing fees and salaries.


Just as reality TV allowed networking executives to launch a new series without paying its stars, this new project by Reuters and Yahoo, YouWitnessNews, will allow the companies to avoid paying their reporters. Apparently the idea is that just seeing your photo on the news page is payment enough. Imagine if Reuter’s shareholders were told, “Look, we’re not making any money, but look how many people have seen our work.” Something tells me they wouldn’t be nearly as happy as they are hearing that they’ve just recruited a platoon of unpaid workers to help make them money.


Unfortunately I don’t have access to the submission terms for the site but I would not be surprised if contributors sign over any number of rights when they upload their work, while retaining all the liabilities. In other words, you don’t get paid, but you might get sued. But, as I said, this is only conjecture and I have not yet read the actual policies.


There is some possibility to earn compensation through the new Yahoo-Reuters partnership, but only “if their work is sold to other print, broadcast, and online media companies.” Of course, that aspect of the project hasn’t launched and “the details have yet to be worked out.”


I guess we’ll see how equitable the payment structure is when it is announced. In the meantime, maybe it’s time to start thinking about a “citizen journalism” union. What do you think?

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