On April 15, the London Free Press launched an initiative to help the community better interact with the paper. Citizens can now contact the paper with ideas, and the paper will provide an editor to help bring those stories to print — with the citizen’s byline. Innovative, right? Only if you plan on squelching the industry, say freelancers.

On April 15, the London Free Press launched an initiative to help the community better interact with the paper. Or, at least, that was the idea.

According to EIC Joe Ruscitti’s editors note:

“You know lots of things that are happening in the city that we don’t and we know you have lots of ideas we haven’t thought of and we would like to get more of both into the Free Press and onto lfpress.com. It’s time for you to share.”

How? Well, the Free Press wants citizens to use its new tool, dubbed Your Scoop.

“C’mon, admit it,” Ruscitti writes, “It has crossed your mind while mulling the paper over your morning coffee: Reporter . . . that would be a cool job.”

Cool, yes, but also not easy, he cautions. “We’re not lowering the standards of the material we print and post just so you can get your name in lights,” Ruscitti adds, “But we do want to publish your work.”

So how to fix the conundrum? According to the editorial, London Free Press journalist Kelly Pedro is going to help contributors “get the best of your stuff into the paper and on the website.” The paper also plans to hold free seminars on journalism basics.

While this is, arguably, a neat idea, the Free Press makes no mention of paying citizen contributors for their journalistic work. And it’s this last part that has freelancers riled.

On Monday, the Canadian Freelance Union wrote an open letter to Ruscitti expressing its concerns:

“We have no objection whatsoever with members of the public contributing news tips, or pointing to stories that need coverage. This strengthens the paper, and its connection to the community. But your column clearly envisions something much grander. By providing a professional editor to work with these ‘citizen journalists,’ and even offering training, the paper is clearly attempting to replace paid professional journalists with the free work of members of the public.”

It continues:

“In your column, you tempt the readers by saying a reporter’s job is ‘cool.’ Do you know what else is ‘cool?’ Getting paid. Instead of teasing members of the public with the chance to get their name in lights, how about offering something real. How about offering to pay for the work you clearly want?”

So what do you think J-Source readers? Is the London Free Press on to something good, or very, very bad?

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