It’s not about the money. Yes it is.

Note: This blog post also ran in the Society of Professional Journalism’s “Journalism and the World” blog. Click here to see the original post (and comments).

Nobody becomes a print journalist to make money. Even the world’s most talented writers probably make more money from the movie rights to their articles and books, or from speaking fees, than the articles or books themselves.

It’s just a fact of the profession — we’re competing with people who are willing to work for free. It’s almost as bad as being a drummer in a rock band, or an aspiring actor.

So if you’re a journalist, good pay and decent hours don’t matter to you.

Except that they do.

I want my work to be read. And valued. I want to provide a benefit to society and get respect for what I do. Money is an indicator of all of this.

It’s not an automatic relationship, but there’s a very strong correlation between the number of readers you have and how much you get paid.

Similarly, if people read your articles then go out and take immediate action, whether to buy — or cancel — a $1 million technology purchase, or write a letter of protest, or change their minds about a political candiate, or just laugh out loud — then that article had value to them. And people will pay more money for articles that are valuable than for articles that they read and immediately forget.

Sometimes readers pay directly, by buying a book or supporting your blog, or indirectly, through editors, by buying a magazine or newspaper.

In either case, as your work has a bigger and bigger impact, your income goes up.

Sure, not as much as it would in other industries — investment banking, say, or waitressing — but still nice. You get to eat, and pay rent. Very handy, money. Even if you’re above these kinds of material concerns, it’s still pleasant to get a check once in a while and know that the money represents other people telling you that you improved their lives in some way.

Signing off in Shanghai,