I read the Middle East Journal, a blog written by freelance journalist Michael Totten. Recently, he asked his readers what we thought about him no longer going on paid assignments. Instead, he would write exclusively for the readers of his blog and financed by our voluntary tips. The feedback in the comments were very positive and apparently so was the feedback in his tip jar. So now, if things work out, he’s off to Iran. And maybe later Afghanistan, or Syria, or North Korea.
It’s an interesting experiment — a journalist cutting out the middleman and writing directly for, and interacting with, a group of people. At first I was pretty excited about it but as I’ve thought a bit more about it I’m having some second thoughts. For one thing, some might argue that the middleman, the editor, is there for a reason. I would tend to agree. Also, these are dangerous places he’ll be going. Will I be (partially) responsible if something happens to him? I’m sure that the more remote and dangerous places he writes about, the more people will read his blog and hit his tip jar. Will put pressure on him to visit these places and put himself at even greater risk?
On the other hand there’s the distinct possibility that I shouldn’t think so much and just enjoy the blog.