Sometimes I wonder exactly what we’re offering our citizen journalists in return for their hard work. We don’t pay them. Reporting can be challenging and time-consuming, and sometimes it’s not nearly as exciting as the movies make it out to be.
On the other hand, last week I was able to introduce a citizen journalists to one of our business’ greatest pleasures — the random famous-person interview.
Here’s how it went: The citizen journo, Jack Newell, was working on a feature about a local artist who makes theatrical masks. The artist told an anecdote about the time he spent traveling in Russia with Patch Adams.
So Jack unexpectedly found himself on the phone with Patch Adams, verifying the details. And now he has a really weird story to tell his friends over cocktails.
A celebrity interview won’t pay the rent but it is a good lure.
We had similar problems with a citizen journalism project we tried at Gotham Gazette about five years ago. For that we sought to have people moderate a few pages about their neighborhood on our site — and not pay them anything. The person who had the thankless task of trying to recruit these moderators said any kind of pay or token would have made his job easier.
In retrospect, I wonder if we could have made use of some of the press passes and freebies that come into any newspaper office. Any thought? Would that be ethical or effective? What otherkinds of goodies are out there?