Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Citizen Journalists

Slyvia Forbes, publisher of Bylines Writer’s Desk Calendar, sent me the link to an article on the Stinky Journalism site about the tax responsibilities of Citizen Journalists. Sylvia is a full-time freelance writer in Missouri and has published over 400 non-fiction articles. I’m not a Citizen Journalist, but if you give (not sell) content to newspapers and sites that then make a profit off your material, you may be hit up for taxes. Even though you made no money on the material your wrote. Even if you received no credit or byline. Even though it was the paper that made the profit, not you.

Here’s just a tiny snippet of what Rhonda Roland Shearer and Danielle Elliot have to say in this article:
While not all citizen journalists are celebrities, many are producing reports, videos and photographs that are viewed around the world. For profit-seeking media companies, it's literally the gift that keeps on giving. As the number of hits any individual content generates increases, so does the ad revenue and the overall asset value of the media web site. The amount of visitor traffic the content generates is a direct measure of the site's asset worth to investors. Web sites themselves are appraised as part of due diligence for investors that accesses the aggregate asset value of all the articles and videos. Hence, the site value is directly dependent on the donated content value when that is the business model employed.
The article was posted back in January. It’s quite long, with lots of contrary comments at the end. But if you are preparing your taxes and have contributed to for-profit papers or media without being paid, you’ll want to look into this. And read the comments as well, since most of them argue with some of the points made in the article. On the other side, the article quotes a lot of professionals.

And if you’d like to learn more about Sylvia’s Bylines Writer’s Desk Calendar, a planning tool for writers, visit that site. I’m hoping to talk about it here soon.

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  1. Great! One more thing writers have to beware...

    L. Diane Wolfe

  2. I treat myself to a writers calendar book every year. Maybe I'll try this one next.

  3. It does seem that way, doesn't it Diane. Every time we turn around, there's something new to look out for or into.

  4. I don't have a writer's calendar and hadn't thought of using one. But this one sure looked interesting to me!

  5. Thanks for the awareness post. Ya gotta stay abreast of everything these days.

  6. You're welcome, Marvin. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. As if taxes were not complicated enough! But I do like the idea of a writer's calendar.

    Jane Kennedy Sutton
    Author of The Ride

  8. Sounds like I need to invite Sylvia to come over here and tell us all about her Bylines Writer's Desk Calendar!

  9. Just goes to show, don't work for free. As a degreed journalist, believe me, no "superstar" title or whatever bogus name they want to give to unpaid contributors on CNN and other sites is worth it. It's not an "honor." Are these "citizen journalists" building a career this way - making any money at it - or just getting "famous" online? Just as these organizations are making money, so serious journalists know that their work has value - monetary value. Writers should get paid for writing - not paying out.

  10. You tell 'em, Chris! They should listen to you - you're a smart cookie.


  11. I don't anticipate ever having such a problem, but I it's a wonderful dream I'd be that popular.

    Morgan Mandel


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