In partnership with the organization, Motlagh’s work has appeared in the public broadcasting show, Foreign Exchange, the Frontline’s iWitness webcam program, and the Virginia Quarterly. But it is unlikely that this concept of “reporting first, money maybe later” will continue to allow journalists to make a career out of reporting.
This has, perhaps, been the plight of freelancers for decades, but what is scary is that veteran newsmen and stalwart news organizations are hailing these projects as exemplars of the new journalism model. Motlagh “is the prototype for the journalist of the future: a free-lancing, multimedia correspondent who knows how to market his work and live on a tight budget,” writes David Westphal in the Online Journalism Review.
If the news industry plans to rely on young, ambitious journalists eager enough to make a career so as to pay for their own breakthrough stories, where will subsequent stories come from? While journalists like Motlagh and Hoshaw should rightly be lauded for their determination and passion, this is simply not a sustainable model. Media scholars should be talking about workable ways to fund these projects and urging mainstream news organizations to get behind them, instead of making the case that this is the future of journalism.
This is a model I think is the future, not just of journalism and reporting, but of most work in the 21st century. What is left out at the historical moment of 2009, is health insurance and social benefits. If the US can work out a way to protect its citizens health and to keep our economy from becoming distorted by the for-profit health industry, I think people working for themselves, and forming cooperatives, will be a viable model for many, many culture and communication workers.