Here’s the thing — journalism is transactional. You rely on other people to feed you information that you can use to write your stories. In exchange, your sources get to draw attention to the things that they think are important.
For instance, if you’re writing an article about a new business, you contact the business owner or spokesperson, and they talk to you, give you an interview, answer your questions, or whatever. In return, they get to communicate their message to potential customers, they get to get the word out about their business.
Or how about if you’re interviewing a politician? Well, again, they provide the journalist with information, and in return, they get to have their viewpoints publicized.
Perhaps you’re doing an article about health food, so you contact health experts for opinions. In exchange for their opinions, they get their names in print, which helps to build their reputations as experts in their field.
But if you are a student, working on, oh, I don’t know, a graduate degree, for instance, and your work is only being distributed internally, or on a private website, then the transaction breaks down. The source feeds you information, and they get nothing in return, because nobody (or only a small number of people) reads the finished reporting.
So there’s no incentive for anybody to talk to you, unless they are motivated solely by listening to themselves speak.
When I was working for the Orlando Weekly, I could simply disclose my affiliation with the newspaper, and whoever I was talking to would take me seriously enough to answer my questions. But now that the only place that my writing is showing up is on a private website, nobody can be bothered to return my phone calls or provide me with any kind of useful information at all. Particularly since my beat is business, where everyone is busy trying to make money, and I have nothing to offer them in the transaction of journalism.
Frankly, it’s pretty much bullshit. Maybe I should just call myself a freelance journalist. That would get me more respect.