DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY Job: What do newspapers gain by having their journalists appear on TV and radio?

Author:Peck, Gretchen A.

For the penultimate segment on "Hardball with Chris Matthews" each weeknight, Matthews queries his panel of journalists and pundits--often with at least one reporter representing a major-market newspaper-challenging them, "Tell me something I don't know."

His branded phrase not only introduces the segment, it exemplifies one of the benefits of having journalists appear as guests on broadcast news programs. Reporters remain excellent sources themselves of researched, vetted and well-sourced information. Their appearances and expertise on the topics of discussion lend both content and credibility to broadcast news programs.

And there are obvious professional gains for the journalist--who has a brand and a byline to protect--and to the newspaper's brand, which benefits from audience reach and an opportunity to evangelize its reporting.

Still, as some newspaper journalists have learned, appearing on broadcast news programs can occasionally come with some unwanted attention too.

The Side Hustle Perspective

"Side hustle" is a colloquial term often used to expeditiously explain someone's secondary or tertiary job. In the case of print and digital journalists appearing on broadcast or radio programs, the term "side hustle" has begun to make the meme rounds on conservative-opinion media outlets. It's increasingly used to rhetorically disparage "mainstream media" and members of the press.

In May, conservative website published an article by prolific contributor Jack Hellner titled "Anyone notice that all that TV Trump-bashing is actually a media side-hustle?" In the article, the writer cited a Buzz-Feed article about the amount of money print journalists may be getting paid by the networks. Citing "reporters, agents and network sources," it alleged that print journalists can make tens of thousands of dollars to upwards of $250,000 by regularly appearing on television." The attributed article does not include any distinction between journalists who appear gratis and those who have may have been retained as "contributors/ analysts."

Despite that, Hellner concluded his article with this crass comparison: "I would say journalists are just like prostitutes, but prostitutes are honest about what they peddle. The significant majority of journalists just say whatever it takes to get paid."

E&P couldn't find any journalists who'd struck it rich by any "side hustle" means, let alone by way of TV appearances, though we searched for them.

Under the conditions of anonymity, several print and digital journalists affirmed that they'd been recent targets of personal attacks and have had to fend off allegations and lies about wealth, ethics, friendships and family due to their broadcast appearances.

In fact, journalists are rarely compensated for their broadcast and radio contributions. Many see these appearances as mere extensions of their job in print and digital media. They see it as opportunity to share what they've learned, to discuss outstanding questions on a topic--things still unknown, which drives their professional curiosity.

In the cases of journalists being compensated for appearances, the reporters come "to the table" with a particular expertise, perhaps amassed through years of study and reporting on a beat. In those cases, there are contracts between the broadcaster and the reporter. Viewers can distinguish between the two by how they're introduced. Newspaper reporters appearing as uncompensated guests will often be identified by title and the name of the paper. Reporters who have been hired as recurring guests will often be identified as the show or network "analyst" or "contributor."


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