Ah, sod it. Three rants in three hours? Why not?
I had an email from a magazine yesterday. I’d pitched an idea to them. The editor loved it. They wanted the piece. Could they have X words by X date? Yes, yes, yip, yip. Except…right at the end…as a breezy afterthought… ‘Of course, we can’t pay you for it.’ As if it were the funniest thing in the world. As if I didn't need their money; as if writing were just a hobby, a bit of fun.
It’s happening more and more. Now everyone is a writer, magazines and papers (yes, even national newspapers in some instances) no longer feel the need to pay for content. Why should they, when people are willing to write for nothing? Just as they no longer need to pay for staff when they can get interns to do the work – for nothing.
|Robyn's stuff... I love this girl. :-)|
I talked to my friend Zoe about it. Her daughter is trying to get a job in journalism. ‘Please tell her not even to go there,’ I’d said (having seen the writing on the wall years back) but Robyn was determined, focused, driven, talented (all qualities that, in the old days, would have seen her fly to the top). She’s good, really good (and, trust me, I’m well picky). So good, in fact, that she gets published all over the place – big glossy magazines. (check her out - click here)
‘Has it earned her a single quid?’ said Zoe with a deep sigh. ‘Has it fuck? She works part-time doing whatever paid grunt work she can get her hands on and interns the rest of the time – free, gratis, mugged.’ She paused and shook her head. ‘Your industry is evil.’
She’s damn right. It is.
And then she said this and, really, I couldn’t put it better myself. So, if you don't mind, I’ll just let her rant on my behalf.
‘Your whole industry has changed,’ she said. ‘And it’s still in a state of flux. Anyone can be a writer now, can’t they? Just as anyone can be famous. It doesn't take talent any more. Look at the idiots they have presenting popular TV these days. Read any tabloid (if you can stomach it). And what about all those celeb mags (from Hello downwards)? They’re just full of salacious crap. A five year old could have written most of it. Gossip is all people seem interested in.
Go Zoe. She’s right. I’ve talked about this before and, honestly, it’s not sour grapes. I’ve had a damn good run in journalism. I made a heck of a decent living out of it in the past and it’s taken me to amazing places and let me meet amazing people (and a fair few scumbags too, but hey). But now?
It’s coming to the point where you need to have a private income if you want to be a journalist. Rates (where they are paid at all) have plummeted and expenses are non-existent. So, if you’re asked to go and interview someone in, say, Manchester, you will have to stump up the train fare out of your (already meagre) fee.
Does it matter? Shouldn’t everyone have a voice in the media? Shouldn’t it be open to all? Shouldn’t it allow in new blood? Well, yes. But in some fields experience really does count for a lot and professional journalists have learned (often the hard way by getting their hypothetical balls crushed by some scathing editor) to check facts, to check sources, to get balanced opinions, to look all around the issue and put in the caveats. And, see, here’s the interesting thing. In the past, the newspaper industry was one of the few truly egalitarian workplaces. Many editors worked their way up from the very bottom, from being the post boy. Nowadays that simply can’t happen.
|A new career?|
Virtually all the good journalists I used to know have thrown in the towel and retrained. Because they’re sick – sick of the dumbing down of the press; sick of being shunted aside for some celebrity whose copy will have been written by an unpaid ripped off intern; sick of jumping through hoops for less and less money (I now earn on average 60 percent less per feature than I did 20 years ago – yes, you read that right).
So really…I’ve had enough. Time to find a new way to bring home the bacon.
Yeah, I'll shut up now...and go chill. *smile*