Analysis: Keith Ng: best-paid journalist in New Zealand

Oct 19: Donations to Keith Ng for his MSD story have now topped $5500. Join in the giving, or look on in horror, here.

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Oct 15: Keith Ng is the best paid journalist in New Zealand.

At least for one day.

As I type, Keith Ng has raised just over $4400 after requesting donations from those who liked his stonking investigative story on security problems at the MSD. It took only a few hours to pass his target total of $1500, and the money's still rolling in.

$4000 is a good haul for a 1200-word piece.

Ng would have made around $500 if he had sold it to a newspaper at the usual freelance rate (40 cents a word*) rather than given it free to Public Address, then asked readers to chip in if they liked it (via his page on Givealittle.co.nz).

An earlier story, on big tobacco astroturfing - from January this year - saw appreciative readers donate just under $1500.

Has Ng stumbled on the future of journalism? Maybe - or at least a useful way for an expert commentator to operate in the modern media environment, and supplement his income (or at least offset his expenses and legal bills) at the same time.

Although as he said on MediaWatch after his first crowd-funded paypacket, it remains to be seen if the public has an appetite for doing this on a regular basis (something Bernard Hickey will test later this year).

The future of journalism, part II: not being a jounalist
Another element of the future of journalism could be having a backup career, or at least a second day job you can turn to.

To wit, when not blogging on Public Address, Mr Ng works in the field of data visualisation.

Sometimes he creates interactive infographics for media (such as this graphic representation of a poll for Stuff or this all-singing, all-dancing effort on Scoop.). But, publishing budgets being what they are, he's usually found on contract to one of the big accounting firms or another corporate client.

* Journalists used to complain the freelance rate had not increased since the early nineties. Now, as print contracts and online - so far - generates only a fraction of the revenue as offline media, most are just grateful if they can find a publication, like NBR, that holds the line. 

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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