Working in the coal mine, work, work

10 03 2013

I blog for free.

I like the sound of my own voice, and, as I once introduced myself, I have lunch and opinions; so when something pops up, I go, Hey, what do I think of this? And then I blog about it, to figure out my thoughts.

I also write (as in: write draft-edit-edit-rewerite-edit. . .) for free, as in This is something that I have to do, and so I do it. I’ll put it on Smashwords and Barnes & Noble and Amazon and hope someone pays for it, but, really, the cash isn’t going to flow.

I do these for free, in other words, because it pleases me.

If you want me to please you, however, then you have to pay me. I’ll be nice if you ask, and I’ll be nice when you pay, but if you want me to labor and you don’t want to compensate me for the fruits of that labor, then (cue Harlan Ellison): Fuck you. Pay me.

Nate Thayer and an Atlantic editor kicked off this latest iteration of Pay the Writer when the editor asked Thayer not simply for permission to repost something he’d already written, but to re-write it. When he asked how much he’d get paid, this was the response:

We unfortunately can’t pay you for it, but we do reach 13 million readers a month.

You, editor, who are getting paid to work for a for-profit company, approached someone to work for you knowing that you couldn’t pay him for that work? And then you waved the exposure flag?

Some have criticized Thayer for publishing the editor’s name and e-mail address (e.g., in these comments) , but even privacy-crazed me think that if you approach someone in a professional capacity using your work e-mail, then, no, it’s not unreasonable for said work e-mail to be published. I wouldn’t have published the address—there be dragons in cyberspace—but this matter ought not be the takeaway from the exchange.

No, the takeaway should be: Don’t fucking ask people to work for you if you can’t pay them cash-money. The website gets 13 million readers a month? As Thayer noted in an interview, I don’t need the exposure. What I need is to pay my fucking rent.

Miz Emily, er, Emily L. Hauser noted in her blog that she has written for The Atlantic for free, albeit at her own instigation. While she was glad  to appear on the site,  the fact of that byline has opened no doors, nor has it led to a single offer for paying work — when editors talk about the value of “exposure,” I can only hope that they’re ignorant of what a chimera that is.

Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic published a long piece on the economics of digital journalism, and he makes a number of reasonable points about its dismal fiscal prospects. Okay, it’s hard out there for an editor—but that doesn’t excuse your own attempts to off-load that difficulty on to freelance writers.

Madrigal is arguing, in other words, that the choices for a quality publication are all bad, but hey, whatchoo gonna do? I don’t like to ask people for work that we can’t pay for. But I’m not willing to take a hardline and prevent someone who I think is great from publishing with us without pay. My main point and (to be normative about it) the main point in these negotiations is this: What do you, the writer, get out of this?

And then he sighs again about the difficulties of his job. For which he is being paid.

I know that my posts get re-posted with some regularity—not because they’re so great, but because there are any number of auto-aggregator sites out there that scoop up anything and everything they see. I don’t really like it, but they do link back to my site, and they’re not asking me to do more work. For free.

Jessica Hische has this great graphic Should I Work For Free (which someone posted a link to in the comments on a like-minded John Scalzi post), and the upshot is pretty much: No.

And that’s pretty much my upshot, with the following caveat: If The Atlantic wanted to repost something which I had written for me own pleasure, then, sure, the exposure might be nice; I was, after all, thrilled when being Freshly Pressed led to an increase in my Absurd readership.

But if you want me to work to please you: pay me.


Mad world

19 08 2010

I cannot believe (as in: I despair) that this is being considered:

Are there enough curse words in all the world’s languages  to be dropped in response to this?

On a (very small) upside: check out the serious debate on the Atlantic‘s website about Jeffrey Goldberg’s article in particular and the Iran-with-nukes scenario in general. Goldblog irritates me to no end, and in looking at the participants in the debate my first reaction was Elliot Abrams? Seriously?!

Still, there’s a real—as in, serious and reasoned—argument happening there. Wish there were a wider spectrum of views—well, more skeptical and radical views—but then again, I wish I could run 5 1/2 minute miles and that eating Doritos helped me to lose weight.

So just as I puff out oh-so-much-more-than-5 1/2-minute-miles and limit my Doritos consumption, so too do I limit my ambitions as regards mainstream debates about world affairs. That is, I accept that sometimes the less-than-ideal can still be worthwhile.

Now, if only we could get various delusional/sullen world leaders to agree. . . .

Like a bird on a wire

28 02 2009

Tweet tweet, warble warble, titter twit. . .


Yeah, that’s one question I have about Twitter: Does it turn us into twits?

I get it: You can pass along bits of information quickly and efficiently to large numbers of people. This can be useful, as in letting underage party goers know that the cops are coming—and even politically useful, as in letting activists know that the cops are coming. So I’m not anti-Twitter.

But I am skeptical. I awoke to NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday and a conversation between Scott Simon, Daniel Schorr, and some guy named Adam (?). As I was still in the process of rousing myself, I missed some of it (I’ll go back and listen to whole thing tomorrow), but I did get to hear Schorr’s main reservation about Twittering, namely, editing. Editing matters, he noted, not just in cleaning up the language, but in attempting to get the story right. Ain’t much editing happening among the Twits.

Now, one kind of reasonable response to this is to say that while any one Twit may not edit, a kind of ‘mass editing’ can occur, to wit: multiple witnesses to or participants in a particular event may offer alternate versions of the event, either at the same time or after the original Tweet. Yes, there’s the telephone game problem (information is distorted as it’s passed along), but, again, multiple tweets could obviate any distortion. On balance, then, I think conscientious Twits can add to good information about an event.

My concern is somewhat different: What happens to thinking? Twittering sends out small packets of data all at once about a breaking event; where is the reflection about that event? Where is the context, the history, the stories beneath the story? One gets information; does one get understanding?

I’ve already written about the distinction I make between blogging and writing—that I consider blogging draft-ier and less careful than writing—and it seems that there’s another set of distinctions to be made. Twittering, in the main, seems even draftier than blogging, information  on-the-fly (or wing?). Again, this isn’t a problem as long as it doesn’t supplant other forms of communication.  Do Twits tweet and move on? In other words, what happens to the event after the event?

Some bloggers crow about the death of so-called dead-tree journalism, but it takes a hell of a lot of resources to be able to cover a story deeply and well. And as a blogger, I freely admit my parasitism on journalism: I need the much-maligned MSM to tell me about the world. But I don’t rely just on newspapers and radio; I regularly turn to magazines and books to drill into a story or phenomenon. Perhaps Twitter could be considered as the opening link to the already-existing chain of information. It’s a clue, a data bit, a passing word which leads to further exploration, to a news story, to multiple news stories, to books.

Do I carry the analogy further? From tweet to a few bars to a whole composition, repeatedly performed?

No, I didn’t think so.

Anyway. I don’t tweet, just as I don’t text. (Texting just seems a private form of twittering; given that I think that any use of Twitter is in the social information transfer, texting seems, mm, useless. I’ll save the justification for that judgement for later—or never.) A coupla’ months ago my friend S. gave me information on Twitter, and it all seemed so exhausting.

It still seems exhausting. But perhaps I’ll go back and look at the info again.

Reflection, leading to reconsideration. Look what Twitter hath wrought!