In my reporting and newsdesking days I sometimes got asked by a caller ringing in with a tale if there was any hope of us paying for the information. In the regionals I've worked on, we never paid for information although if the story was likely to sell, and good enough, we'd help arrange syndication and the subject would get a cut.
We bought did pay freelance photographers and writers for their work but the freelance budget has shrunk down to the barest of bones in recent years; I suspect most freelance writers now view regional newspapers as a lost cause, and freelance photographers probably wonder if the fee will cover the cost of the fuel getting there.
Yes times are hard, but a slashed contributions budget is a frustrating and humiliating thing for a newsroom. We want those dramatic rescue photos but can we pay for them? It's not that we won't, it's that often we can't.
Believe me, when you have to say "sorry but we don't have a budget for that" to someone who has captured something of real local significance you feel cheap, and you sound cheap.It's making local newspapers look bad at a time when they can ill afford it and invites 'price of everything, value of nothing' comments.
Newspapers have taken for years, and known the value of what they were taking. In the future, we'd better be a bit more accommodating.