Free in Freelance

Freelance pubradio people have been smacked hard recently, with the cancellation of freelance friendly shows, and NPR’s slashing of freelance acquisition budgets at their remaining series. Seems same trend towards “the free in freelance” is happening to writers, LA TimesFreelance writings unfortunate new model“: will pay $15 for articles about the outdoors. wants 500-word pieces on health for $30, or less. In this mix, the 16 cents a word offered by Green Business Quarterly ends up sounding almost bounteous, amounting to more than $100 per submission.

Other publishers pitch the grand opportunities they provide to “extend your personal brand” or to “showcase your work, influence others.” That means working for nothing, just like the sailing magazine that offers its next editor-writer not a single doubloon but, instead, the opportunity to “participate in regattas all over the country.”

What’s sailing away, a decade into the 21st century, is the common conception that writing is a profession — or at least a skilled craft that should come not only with psychic rewards but with something resembling a living wage.

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Comment (1)

Yes and the freelance audio opportunities have dwindled as well. I was laid off in 2007 from HoustonPBS the year after winning my second Emmy. Audio is no longer a titled position at the first educational television station in the nation, the position my mentor and high school teacher first held. Luckily, KUHF liked me and I was able to get referrals for projects from NPR. They started at $150 for a tape sync, which is OK if the interview is short and down the street, but after NPR kicked Ketzel Levine and many others to the curb, the price went down to $75, which is CBS radio rate. The net result? NPR shows became phoner only unless the reporter could get to the interview with a DC Metro rail pass. NPR began to sound like a local radio station. To be fair, I think this is changing some, but there is not doubt that the new contract that NPR has with its sound guys has resulted in removing the extra input, technically AND editorially, that the engineers provided. You can tell just by the general decay of the pun quality, the wackiness of preproduced team coverage, and the obvious ‘will broadcast for eats’ of the food segments. When I was interviewed for a position as an engineer at NPR, the death blow for me was when an unnamed manager explained to me that ‘We had a bunch of technicians that thought they were artists. The new contract gives us language to deal with that.” Amen and amen and amen.

Comment added by citizendoug on 01.14.10

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