NO to The Huffington Post, YES to These Sites That Pay Writers
If I had one wish for today – besides stopping the wild fires, world peace, an end to hunger and poverty and climate change, and maybe the Republican Clown Car driving off a cliff – it would be that everyone stop reading The Huffington Post. Even just for one day, imagine if no one went there, and we made clear on social media that it’s because THEY DON’T PAY WRITERS! They rake in hundreds of millions of dollars, and do not pay writers. Not only does that suck as profoundly as nibbling on Jabba The Hut’s slimy big toe while he strokes your head and calls you “lovey” and jerks your chain (unless you’re in to that,) it has lowered the bar for all publications out there. (Now I am picturing Arianna as Jabba, and I’m regretting that image.)
It has become acceptable to not pay for content, because, you know, HuffPo doesn’t, so that must be the new normal. Exposure is the new currency – it’s also a thing that people die of. And if you want to compete with HuffPo for ad dollars, you have to tighten your budget somewhere, so you just don’t pay for content. (And promote lots of click-baity articles and viral videos instead of, you know, intelligent content.)
If the bar gets any lower, we may as well get our news by reading the greeting card section of our local pharmacy.
But really, think about it for a second. Imagine if you went into a store, some super cute store that you love, that has funky and original items that might be called “artisan,” or are ethically sourced from sustainable places. And you buy them. You even pat yourself on the back for doing so. Then you found out that the artisan that crafted it didn’t get paid for it at all, only the store that sold it. Because, having a store is hard, so they can’t pay for the stuff they sell, just eek by on the money they made for selling it. Cutting the artist out altogether. Like, going to the Farmer’s market and just paying your money directly to the lot that gives the farmer’s space, not paying the farmer at all.
That’s what’s happening online right now. And it’s screwing all of us. Especially writers.
What can you do? Stop buying the products that producers aren’t getting paid to produce. Stop reading the Huffington Post, NOW. (They, to be clear, are not alone. Lots of sites you love don’t pay writers, and think it’s okay, because they’re giving writers exposure!) Hell, ask your favorite sites if they pay writers, and if they don’t, tell them your eyeballs (which is what they sell to advertisers) will be back when they do. (If you’re a writer, consider not writing for sites that don’t pay writers. It’s probably the only way we’ll make meaningful change!)
But, just as importantly, READ SITES THAT DO PAY WRITERS. They’re out there, and they’re good. Bookmark these sites and use them as your sources for news and opinion. They pay writers, and that’s Fair Trade in the content world.
Without further ado, here is a quick list that I compiled by asking writers who they work for, who pays well and who has good content that they’d like others to support in order to raise the bar, and make a living. Here’s the quick list, and PLEASE leave your additions in the comment section, we’ll make a living reference for others to check.
The Guardian Up to the minute breaking news, International lens. They also have great arts, culture and entertainment commentaries.
Al Jazeera Fact-based and in-depth reporting of International news (which includes the US, just in case you were going to say “but I want to know what’s going on at home.”) I fell in love with Al Jazeera after seeing The Control Room. Last time I checked, you could stream this awesome documentary on Netflix, which pays both royalties and original content creators. (No streaming things illegally, that means artists don’t get paid, and that’s not cool.)
New York Times Um, it’s the New York Times. The word “venerable” comes to mind. They pay quickly and well and are still one of the major goals of most writers. (I’ll be in there some day, I promise.) Buy a subscription for full access, and because it’s the right thing to do.
BBC Yet another awesome international news site that pays well and quickly. (And as of this moment, had the tragic shooting of the American TV reporter as it’s lead story, so yes, you can get world news, up to the minute, on this British site.)
Quartz This is one that flew under my radar, but is a great example of the new vanguard of rapid reporting that is well thought out and cleanly presented. Had all the same headlines as the other sites, and writers seem to love writing for them.
Yahoo Yahoo News is actually my homepage on my computer. They aggregate from all the major news services – all of whom pay their writers. I am lazy (and old,) they make it easy.
Washington Post The Nation’s Front Page? I just made that up, but it’s another venerable one.
MSNBC.com This is a go-to site for all the NBC properties. New, TV Shows, Punditry. And they pay writers. One stop shopping.
CNN Breaking news, some analysis, some commentary.
NPR This is my addiction. It’s the only radio I listen to, and it’s on all the time. (Drives my husband nuts, as he just wants to listen to music when we’re in the car, but I’m all like, BUT NPR!)
Christian Science Monitor Don’t be thrown off by the name, it’s not god’s daily. It’s one of the best international newspapers I can think of. I hold CSM and Al Jazeera in the highest regards for fairly unbiased reporting of complicated international issues that are typically skewed by nationalist perspective.
Vice News Solid site with rapid reporting about pretty much everything. Definitely skews to people younger than me, video heavy, but good stuff. Any real complaint I have would amount to “get off my lawn,” and I’m not quite ready to be that person yet. Plus, they pay writers and do a good job of staying connected to “the connected generation,” which I think is probably my daughter and her friends.
Your Local Daily! No link for this one, because I don’t know where you live. But I love The Seattle Times for local, regional, national and international reporting. Most local dailies still employee writers (and other people) as well as aggregating from news services that pay writers. Support your local daily. (Get a subscription, while you’re at it. They’re cheap and you get way more than you pay for.)
The Atlantic Some of the best in-depth explorations of cultural issues that you’ll find anywhere. Whether its rape culture or reparations, they’ll go deep, and they pay writers to produce well-researched and engaging work that can change minds and times. (Someday, I’ll be in here, writing about rape culture, and it’ll be awesome – until I’m on Xanax hiding under the covers afraid the trolls will actually get me.)
Color Lines A go-to spot for issues of race relations and social change. Definitely a leading platform for agitation and perspectives that aren’t white. We need more of this, so you need to read it, support it and amplify it.
Rolling Stone We’re going to have to “forgive” the campus rape article, which is something that even I do with grave hesitation. Because, for decades, Rolling Stone has gone gonzo with all manner of social exploration, and it’s still a great publication. We all fuck up. Some of us just have really big audiences when we do.
Pacific Standard In-depth commentary and exploration about all things confusing, like the global economy, commodities markets, climate change. More newsy and less fluffy, but excellent for shedding light on big issues that impact us all.
The Mid Here, let me show you my “old lady” card again. I love The Mid. Essays by and for those of us in middle age. It is now owned by Scary Mommy, which is another site that you can count on to deliver cutting-wit and perspective about living real life, in a way that isn’t sanitary enough for glossy magazines. Which is what makes it work, and will make you feel a little better about yourself. (Or else it might make you sanctimonious about how much better you are than the neurotic lot of us, in which case, screw you.)
Slate Politics, business, technology and art. That about covers it. Slate has a, well, full slate of contemplative articles about the world we live in. Simple and digestible, not as long as Atlantic articles, but just as good. If you need something chewy for your brain cells, Slate’ll give you what you need.
Vox Vox bill’s itself as a general interest news site for the 21st century, which sounds about right. They aim to “explain” the news more than report it, which I find handy, since I’m so often confused by what on earth is going on with the world these days. I mean, is Donald Trump seriously leading the GOP? How is that even possible?
New Yorker Apropos of nothing, my mother has been collecting New Yorker covers since before I was born. Her plan, she says, is to wall paper a bathroom with them. At this point, that bathroom would have to be bigger than most New York apartments. Regardless, I love the New Yorker, but fully own that it is the pinnacle of leftist, elite pretensions. It also has fantastic writing, FICTION!, and reviews of plays and places that I will never experience. It’s like Playboy for my intellectual fantasy life. (Oh, Playboy also pays writers, very well, and is publishing a lot of excellent content, much of which is shockingly feminist. Good stuff. Playboy is also on my list of pubs I really want to write for.) (I am grateful that I didn’t accidentally write “pubes” there, although that would have been funny, and I would have left it. Like when I wrote an article looking at the harmful impact of cuts in pubic education funding. But that was for a newspaper, and wasn’t as funny, really.)
XO Jane Don’t be a hater. Everyone needs to ready trashy crap sometimes. When I need my fix of trashy crap with more bite than a cat video and less snark than Jezebel, I go to XO Jane. Why? Well, partly because I’ve been reading it since it was Sassy, and it’s a habit. But also because they pay writers. All of them. And that matters to me.
How else can you support these sites? Buy a subscription! If you are bemoaning the fact that the quality of “journalism” has gone down, you can support the sites that hire staff to edit, and fact-check and pay writers to be thorough. Many of the sites that offer the best content also offer subscriptions, buy them. That, combined with advertising, is how they pay writers. And the advertising revenue comes from eyeballs on pages, so you need to put your eyeballs on pages so that they can sell them. If you use ad-blocking software, it becomes doubly important that you subscribe, because these sites need to generate revenue so that they can pay writers for the quality content we all claim to want.
Look, nothing is free. Everything has a cost. That cost has to be paid by someone. The cost of “free” content is that the crap / quality ratio is getting way the fuck out of whack.
If you value something, then pay for it. And if you don’t value it, stop spending your time on it. Ultimately, what we spend our time and money on shows us what we value.
There is no excuse for not paying writers. And no reason so support the sites that don’t.
Are you a writer or editor for a site that pays writers? Want to make sure we know about a great site that has excellent content and pays writers? PLEASE leave it in the comments. Give us a link and a quick review!