Is It Expected That A Freelancer Pays Interviewees?

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Noireazur

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I have got the go ahead from an editor to write an article. They've told me my fee but also said that the fee includes any fee I may have arranged with the interviewee. The piece will focus almost entirely on the interviewee.

Whilst I've been paid before for written work, I've never come across this issue before. Is it expected (i.e. bad form if I don't) that a freelancer pay an interviewee?

At no stage has the interviewee asked for a fee and the piece would be very good publicity for them (for reasons I will keep confidential but they do stand to gain from the piece regardless of payment.)
 
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Maryn

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Based on exactly zero experience, I think it's not at all normal for the person being interviewed to be paid to do so, especially in an article which will benefit them in some way.

I'll keep you company until the people with direct knowledge come by, if that's okay.

Maryn, imagining scenarios where movie studios want thousands to interview A-list starts
 

owlion

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My Linguistics lecturer mentioned occasionally offering a small incentive for people to take part in interviews, but that was often something like being entered into a draw for a voucher rather than handing over cash. I think if the interviewee hasn't mentioned a fee, I wouldn't worry about it, as it's not expected - but this is secondhand knowledge and I'm not sure which field you're in.
 
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Noireazur

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OK, perfect. Thank you both for your kind advice. ❤️

I'm comfortable in the knowledge that this is superb exposure for the interviewee and that they will benefit (including financially). I just didn't want to be caught out as a cheapskate in case it was the norm.
 
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Maggie Maxwell

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I can't speak from any sort of experience, but I'd say if the interviewee has to come to you, it's polite to offer to pay for travel expenses. As much as you're doing something to benefit them, they're also doing something to benefit you (giving you the content you need.) If no travel is necessary (like Zoom interviews) or you're going to them, then perhaps not necessary.
 

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If it's a face to face interview, it'd be nice if you paid for their coffee. But other than that, unless they specify a fee beforehand, I can't imagine you're meant to pay them.
 

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I don't think payment is expected, and sometimes it can cause a problem with its connotations of 'cheque-book journalism'. But buying coffee/cake/lunch is fine, and a chat in a café is a good way to get material in a relaxed setting. Keep the receipt. It's tax deductible. (It is here, anyway.)

But always -- always -- keep in mind that the only person who is guaranteed to benefit financially is the writer. The interviewee might.

Also keep a diary and detailed notes, just in case there are any disputes of who said what, when and where. (Also in case you need follow ups -- or another article for a different publication.)
 
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Paul Lamb

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I have NEVER paid any of my interview subjects a fee. (Nor are they to buy you lunch and such since it can be seen as an attempt to bias your article.)

Most of the people I interviewed for my articles will thrilled or at least pleased to be asked their opinion on the subject.
 

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I have NEVER paid any of my interview subjects a fee. (Nor are they to buy you lunch and such since it can be seen as an attempt to bias your article.)

Most of the people I interviewed for my articles will thrilled or at least pleased to be asked their opinion on the subject.


I can't imagine a situation in which an interviewee would offer to buy lunch, but I would suggest -- as Paul does -- that you do not accept.
 
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lorna_w

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All of my freelance experience is 20 years old, but I never paid any interview subject either. I've been interviewed in the past 10 years and would never have thought to ask for pay. It's free PR. People with a product/business/political organization/conspiracy theory are generally happy to be interviewed to promote their thing, whatever that thing is.
 

Stytch

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I have got the go ahead from an editor to write an article. They've told me my fee but also said that the fee includes any fee I may have arranged with the interviewee. The piece will focus almost entirely on the interviewee.

Whilst I've been paid before for written work, I've never come across this issue before. Is it expected (i.e. bad form if I don't) that a freelancer pay an interviewee?

At no stage has the interviewee asked for a fee and the piece would be very good publicity for them (for reasons I will keep confidential but they do stand to gain from the piece regardless of payment.)
My background was in basic, small-town journalism. I have heard things are different in some big money places, tabloids, etc. But I was always taught it that paying sources was unethical. I understand when there might be reasons to argue that, and the word "exploitative" would probably be involved. These days probably also comments about licensing. But I'm old school and don't care. I also wouldn't have ever tried to exploit a source's situation for financial gain (or even "clicks," as we now say), because there was none to be had at my level.
 

Mutive

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I can't imagine a situation in which an interviewee would offer to buy lunch, but I would suggest -- as Paul does -- that you do not accept.

I think I remembered reading about some journalists who wrote gushing puff pieces about dictators who wined and dined them and flew them around on fancy private planes, etc. So whileI doubt I'll ever be on either side of that interview, I can imagine a case in which an interviewee would splurge on a reporter with the hope that the reporter portrayed them more favorably than they otherwise might.
 

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I think I remembered reading about some journalists who wrote gushing puff pieces about dictators who wined and dined them and flew them around on fancy private planes, etc. So whileI doubt I'll ever be on either side of that interview, I can imagine a case in which an interviewee would splurge on a reporter with the hope that the reporter portrayed them more favorably than they otherwise might.

That the example is dictators shows how unusual it is!

ETA: But see also PR events where some might end up parroting the promotional bumf.
 
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Noireazur

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Many thanks for your kind advice everybody, it is much appreciated.