I understand why a professional journalist like Nate Thayer would be frustrated at being asked to work for “exposure” rather than work for pay, though I think it’s unprofessional to vent that frustration by publishing the e-mails and the name of the junior editor who made the request.
(Brian Stauffer for The Washington Post/)
But behind this debate lurks an uncomfortable fact: The salaries of professional journalists are built upon our success in convincing experts of all kinds working for exposure rather than pay. Now those experts have found a way to work for exposure without going through professional journalists, creating a vast expansion in the quantity and quality of content editors can get for free.
Call it the revenge of our sources. For a very long time, we got them to work for nothing more than exposure — and sometimes, we didn’t even give them that. Now they’re getting more and more of us to do it.