Save journalism from itself: Support journalists, not mastheads

I hate to state the obvious but cutting journalists won’t save journalism.

And neither will subscribing to Fairfax less than a day after it announced 125 journalists will be cut to save $3 million dollars.

Yep. On International Press Freedom Day, Fairfax announced it would be wielding the axe, yet again.

There is an ongoing conversation unwinding on Twitter right now as to whether cancelling your subscription to Fairfax is the right decision.

On the one side are people who claim that subscriptions are the only way to prevent Independent Always from cutting more journalists, and they have a point. But the argument to the contrary is that as consumers, you can direct your money in a much more pointed and powerful way.

This may be a controversial opinion but continuing to hand over your money to a publication that would rather cut from its least expensive cost centre than actually undertake a proper restructure tells Fairfax you are comfortable with what is occurring. And that you are willing to accept the declining standards of journalism that result when you continue to cut from the very core of your business.

I am absolutely gutted for my friends and colleagues at Fairfax whose jobs are affected, and I would encourage all of you to support those journalists in any way that you can. I hope more of them will be setting up Patreon’s in the coming days, that way you can show Fairfax where you want to invest: In journalists and journalism itself.

Continuing to support a company like Fairfax is a exercise in blind faith. Though it has produced some groundbreaking investigations, it has done little over the last decade to demonstrate that it has altered its business model in any way that doesn’t involve cutting the reporters who create its content, without which there would be no product.

(Side note: I wonder what proportion of subscriptions actually go to journalists, rather than management and business admin…).

Put your money where your mouth is and pledge to support the journalists who will be cut in the coming weeks. If you are a journalist whose job is on the chopping block, please set up a Patreon so I can plug it on your behalf.

Data is everything. Pledging to support a journalist instead of a company is one of the most powerful pieces of data news organisations will have to confront. So long as we are comfortable letting media companies decide how their money is distributed, the cuts will keep coming, and they will get deeper and deeper and eventually there will be no more core left to bleed from.

Journalists deserve to get paid for what they do, and it is time that readers stand behind reporters and journalism, instead of relying on the good faith of their employers.

We do not yet know the identity of the journalists whose careers are on the line. But you can support journalists who have already been cut. For example John Birmingham has an excellent newsletter, Alien Side Boob, which for $4 a month provides access to the kind of journalism you won’t read about in the paper.

Michael West is another excellent journalist, stockbroker, editor and finance reporter who was, in the words of John Birmingham, “cut in favour of Kardashians and lifestyle bloggers”. You can keep his journalism strong and independent for $5, $20 or $100 a month. 

If you are a Fairfax journalist reading this, get in touch with me on Twitter or Facebook or email, and I’ll add you to a list of journalists I can encourage my readers to support. (Please setup a Patreon). Use this link when you sign up & setup your page; we both earn bonuses as Patrons pledge their support.

It is worth mentioning: It is important to not only support journalists that concur with your world view. Media diversity depends on our commitment to diverse voices and perspectives. Even $5-$7 a month, split between 2-3 journalists, you’d be surprised how far that money goes.

I can guarantee your loose change is better spent into the pocket of a journalist than a media organisation.

Because that’s where we are at right now: Two major mastheads who refuse to restructure whose attempts to restructure have resulted in overburdened journalists with less time to devote to each story and who continue to cut jobs in the face of growing change instead of developing a model that supports quality journalism and employment.

I want to support my fellow Fairfax colleagues, but I don’t believe that sending more money towards Fairfax is the only way to do it.

Dig into Patreon and other subscription and micro-payment platforms which support independent journalists. I will be compiling a list over the coming weeks of journalists and producers who are using crowdfunding to subsidise their profession.

It is time to start funding journalists instead of their administrative overlords.

Put your money where your mouth is: Supporting journalists is what will save journalism from itself.

We all need your help right now. Please dig deep. A couple of dollars a month goes a long way.

Claire Connelly is working on her first book, How The World Really Works, a guide to recognising rhetorical red flags and immunising yourself against bullshit. You should definitely buy it when it comes out. A podcast of the same name will also be launching in the coming months.