In a free content era, professional writers are increasingly squeezed. A dwindling number of outlets actually pay their providers. As a means of establishing a publication name, freelance writers have turned more and more to blog aggregators, whose primary means of achieving revenue is through ad content. These web syndicates dangle the promise of payment, but first provided one follows a series of exacting, exasperating steps. Beware of empty promises.
I have refused to act like a trained pony, even though doing so takes a certain amount of money out of my pocket. Suggested assignments by these outlets require hours of extra work. Interviewing business owners, local politicians, and important people takes a long while. Putting in the time pays one less than minimum wage, if broken down into earnings per hour. And with no guarantee of reimbursement beyond the initial $15 for taking on a complicated piece of work, what I receive is chump change. I resent being treated as a cash cow, with the quality/composition of my contributions valued much less than a formulaic business model.
Here, most of the money earned streams to the top. Those who make it easy for the company to make profit find a few peanuts thrown their way. But these are the exception, rather than the rule. Huffington Post, for example, continues to refuse to pay most of its writers. And yet, as if to show blatant evidence of this topsy-turvy world in which we inhabit, it has even won Pulitzer Prizes in the past couple of years. Long time journalists have been wooed away, wise enough to see the writing on the wall. More are soon to follow.
Long-standing periodicals like Newsweek and Time have begun to implode. Now that first-rate staff has flown the coop, the quality of both continues to decline. Newspapers have begun to transition to online editions, this to save money, though what is posted often seems rushed and amateur. My hometown newspaper The Birmingham News has made one series of cuts to staffing after another. Forced buyouts and decreased benefits, plus a decline in pay, is today's world. The al.com domain that shares the content of the newspapers of the three largest cities in the state is a long-delayed nod to the new online reality facing everyone.
In the meantime, each of us scratches out some livelihood, though the ethic of scarcity is in force. If this career field could be compared to a suckling pig, there are too many young in search of milk and not enough places for all of them to feed. In a race to the top, sharp elbows are often employed. The journos of the nation seek jobs that are peeling away day by day. Or, as the old Gershwin standard inquired, "Nice work if you can get it. And if you get it, won't you tell me how?"