By CHRIS FARAONE
The underpaid, overly male, incredibly white, and slightly optimistic state of independent media making in Boston
If we’re going to serve media makers in addition to publications and readers, then we have to know with whom exactly we are working, what they need, and the kind of journalism they hope to produce, among other things. That was the idea, and those were some of the general questions we had on the brain while writing and conducting our first ever survey of freelancers in Greater Boston.
As we expected, there is a wide range of experience levels and skill sets in our mix, from researchers and print journalists to TV and radio producers. Though there appears to be a troubling lack of diversity in some areas, particularly race and ethnicity, our local news ecosystem does have dedicated troopers representing various ages and backgrounds and living from the Quincy shoreline to the hills of Somerville.
Overall, there aren’t too many surprises. More than 90 percent of respondents were white, 70 percent went to college in the Greater Boston area with more than half studying communications, they like to primarily write articles but also shoot videos and photos, and for the most part make peanuts considering the number of hours they work. On the bright side, there are still a lot of places in the Hub buying articles, with at least 50 outlets cutting freelance checks.
We will be using all this research to help guide BINJ forward; for example, we now have a much better idea about just how poorly news organizations are paying, and plan on working even harder now to correct that. Furthermore, the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (BINJ) plans on being an active participant in the conversation about diversity in Boston media (for more on that front and additional reading, check the “HOMEWORK” section at the end).
Finally, while this survey is geared toward helping us help reporters, and does not necessarily serve as an accurate picture of the Greater Boston media landscape, we do encourage media students, editors, and anyone else to use the results in any positive way possible. All the raw data can be easily downloaded at the end of this post. First, though, we have more than two-dozen colorful charts, graphs, and images to share, so without further ado …
GETTING TO KNOW OUR MEDIA MAKERS
What is your gender?
Answered: 90 | Skipped: 10
31 — “Female”
56 — “Male”
1 — “Cisgender”
NOTE: In addition to the those who selected from the answers furnished by Survey Monkey in their suggested question on race and ethnicity, 2% of respondents filled in “Latino.”
WHAT KIND OF MEDIA DO FREELANCERS MAKE AND FOR WHAT OUTLETS?
NOTE: Other outlets to which freelancers have contributed:
El País | El Mundo | UrbanDaddy
Boston Business Journal | WBZ
The Heights | Boston Compass / Boston Hassle
Boston Courant | North End Regional Review
Spare Change News | Art New England
Xconomy | Spare Change News | Bay State Examiner
Boston Spirit Magazine | Somerville Times
MIT Technology Review | Harvard Magazine
Quincy Patriot Ledger | Martha’s Vineyard Gazette
Scout Cambridge | Scout Somerville | Boston Review
The Baffler | Boston Music Spotlight
Malden Advocate | Tufts Magazine
UMass Boston Magazine | CommonWealth
Patch | NE Center for Investigative Reporting
UU World | PRI’s The World | GroundTruth Project
RIGHTS, RATES & EMPLOYMENT
We are proud to be part of a growing network of media makers and independent news outlets nationwide in which people are discussing, at long last, the importance of making sure tomorrow’s journalists come from all walks of life. We hope to set a good example in working with reporters from various backgrounds, but the job doesn’t end there.
Among our many efforts to represent all corners of Greater Boston, particularly those that are under-served and underrepresented in the mainstream media, we have teamed up with our nonprofit sponsor, Press Pass TV, and are currently participating in a civic journalism program with middle school students from BPS.
We’re not alone on the job. There are many other groups, organizations, and outfits looking for solutions in this area, as there are reporters asking serious (and often uncomfortable) questions. It felt appropriate to highlight some of them here; if you have anything further to add, please share it with us in the comments.
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Chris Faraone is the founder of theBoston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He is also the news and features editor for the Dig Boston website. He is the author of four books, including: 99 Nights with the 99 Percent: Dispatches from the First Three Months of the Occupy Revolution; Heartbreak Hell: Searching for sanity in Boston through a week of tragedy and terror; I Killed Breitbart… and countless other causes of conservative consternation; and HIZZONNAROO: The fervent fete and street fight to replace a Boston patriarch.