A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist—2013

4 Mar

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist—2013

Here is an exchange between the Global Editor of the Atlantic Magazine and myself this afternoon attempting to solicit my professional services for an article they sought to publish after reading my story “25 Years of Slam Dunk Diplomacy: Rodman trip comes after 25 years of basketball diplomacy between U.S. and North Korea”   here http://www.nknews.org/2013/03/slam-dunk-diplomacy/ at NKNews.org

From the Atlantic Magazine:

On Mar 4, 2013 3:27 PM, “olga khazan” <okhazan@theatlantic.com> wrote:

Hi there — I’m the global editor for the Atlantic, and I’m trying to reach Nate Thayer to see if he’d be interested in repurposing his recent basketball diplomacy post on our site.

Could someone connect me with him, please?

thanks,
Olga Khazan
okhazan@theatlantic.com

 From the head of NK News, who originally published the piece this morning:

Hi that piece is copy right to NK News, so please engage us mutually.
Thanks, tad

From the Atlantic:

Sure. Thanks Nate and Tad…I was just wondering if you’d be interested in adapting a version of that for the Atlantic. Let me know if you’d be interested.

thanks,

Olga

From me:

Hi Olga:

Give me a shout at 443 205 9162 in D.C. and I’d be delighted to see whether we can work something out.

Best,

Nate Thayer

From the Atlantic:

Sure, I’ll call you in a few minutes.

After a brief phone call where no specifics were really discussed, and she requested I email her:

Hi Olga: What did you have in mind for length, storyline, deadline, and fees for the basketball  diplomacy piece. Or any other specifics. I think we can work something out, but I want to make sure I have the time to do it properly to meet your deadline, so give me a shout back when you have the earliest chance.

best,

Nate Thayer

From the Atlantic:

Thanks for responding. Maybe by the end of the week? 1,200 words? We unfortunately can’t pay you for it, but we do reach 13 million readers a month. I understand if that’s not a workable arrangement for you, I just wanted to see if you were interested.

Thanks so much again for your time. A great piece!

From me:

Thanks Olga:

I am a professional journalist who has made my living by writing for 25 years and am not in the habit of giving my services for free to for profit media outlets so they can make money by using my work and efforts by removing my ability to pay my bills and feed my children. I know several people who write for the Atlantic who of course get paid. I appreciate your interest, but, while I respect the Atlantic, and have several friends who write for it, I have bills to pay and cannot expect to do so by giving my work away for free to a for profit company so they can make money off of my efforts. 1200 words by the end of the week would be fine, and I can assure you it would be well received, but not for free. Frankly, I will refrain from being insulted and am perplexed how one can expect to try to retain quality professional services without compensating for them. Let me know if you have perhaps mispoken.

best,

Nate

From the Atlantic:

Hi Nate — I completely understand your position, but our rate even for original, reported stories is $100. I am out of freelance money right now, I enjoyed your post, and I thought you’d be willing to summarize it for posting for a wider audience without doing any additional legwork. Some journalists use our platform as a way to gain more exposure for whatever professional goals they might have, but that’s not right for everyone and it’s of course perfectly reasonable to decline.

Thank you and I’m sorry to have offended you.

Best,

Olga

From me:

Hi Olga: No offense taken and no worries. I am sure you are aware of the changing, deteriorating condition of our profession and the difficulty for serious journalists to make a living through their work resulting in the decline of the quality of news in general. Ironically, a few years back I was offered a staff job with the Atlantic to write 6 articles a year for a retainer of $125,000, with the right to publish elsewhere in addition. The then editor, Michael Kelly, was killed while we were both in Iraq, and we both, as it were, moved on to different places. I don’t have a problem with exposure but I do with paying my bills.

I am sure you can do what is the common practice these days and just have one of your interns rewrite the story as it was published elsewhere, but hopefully stating that is how the information was acquired. If you ever are interested in  a quality story on North Korea and wiling to pay for it, please do give me a shout. I do enjoy reading what you put out, although I remain befuddled as to how that particular business model would be sustainable to either journalism and ultimately the owners and stockholders of the Atlantic.

I understand your dilemma and it really is nothing personal, I assure you, and I wish you the best of luck.

So now, for those of you remained unclear on the state of journalism in 2013, you no longer are…..

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829 Responses to “A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist—2013”

  1. clitemnistra April 1, 2013 at 3:33 am #

    Reblogged this on Clitemnistra.

    Like

  2. C.Delatorre April 2, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    interesting developments – is journalism degrading and how fast? @CoMissourian, @nate_thayer vs @TheAtlantic and more (1/6) via @urbanmolecule https://twitter.com/urbanmolecule/status/319166619467272192

    Like

  3. David Shorter (@davidshorter) April 6, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    I’m so glad someone finally posted something like this so that we can see the BS that now populates “for profit” news agencies, magazines, and newspapers. Our going rate is 100.00? That may be true but that’s bullshit. We are out of freelance money? Bullshit. If that’s true, you need to shut down the magazine right now. You have no idea how to run a business if your company doesn’t have an account especially for great reporters that deserve to be paid for their craft. Or, the Atlantic should just invite random people from the street to submit their iPhone pics and texted stories. We’ll now call that journalism. Also, close down all the journalism schools at colleges, or just rename them. Imagine getting your Bachelor’s degree from ASU’s new “School for Blogging, Camera Apps, and Texting.” It used to be the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism but then realized it was training people in obsolete skills.

    Like

    • nick harman (@digforvictory) April 7, 2013 at 4:52 am #

      ‘Or, the Atlantic should just invite random people from the street to submit their iPhone pics and texted stories. We’ll now call that journalism’.

      Or call it crowd sourcing, or whatever you want to label, it’s effective – people seem to enjoy reading it, and it’s cheap.

      Like

    • Lidia April 9, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

      I guess you haven’t seen the increasing number of video “viewer contributions” on local TV stations, along with social media and other on-line content re-purposed in the traditional media.

      My local paper regularly re-prints articles from Salon.

      Like

  4. Peter Dalmaris April 12, 2013 at 4:00 am #

    I had a similar experience in the higher education sector recently. Yes, the business models of formerly proud institutions in education and journalism are broken. This is obvious when the creators of what is taught or published are expected to do it for the love of it.

    Like

    • Astra December 23, 2013 at 9:00 am #

      Indeed. The amount of work that the NSF, for example, expects scientists to do without salary support has become depressingly large.

      Like

  5. general April 12, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    It’s actually very complicated in this busy life to listen news on Television, therefore I simply use web for that reason, and take the most up-to-date news.

    Like

  6. Tohmkatte April 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    I hope journalism doesn’t go the way of the music business, but it seems it’s heading that direction. I am a musician and just got an offer from a blog to review my new album if I paid them $15. Not just advertising–which I’m OK to pay for–but a supposedly unbiased review! I politely declined, and got a response along the lines of “these days, this is how it is.” This is total hack journalism and needs to stop. I understand the writers need to get paid, but the publication needs to pay them, not the artist! Such a sad state of things. I’ve also read about this happening with self-published novelists and writers eager to get good press.

    Blogs and magazines make money on advertising and subscriptions and should always pay for the contributions of their writers. Working for free or paying for exposure is just perpetuating a disrespect for art and the work that goes into creating something great.

    Like

    • David Fiedler April 18, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

      That’s not hack journalism, and it’s not journalism of any sort, period. It would be bribery if it WAS journalism, but it’s simply pay-for-advertorial, and it’s unethical in the extreme.

      Back in the early 90s, I bootstrapped my own video magazine and picked interesting products to cover. At least 1/3 of our potential interviewees asked if we were going to charge them for being featured! I happened to remark to my wife the other day that I might have seen that as a sign to ditch the journalism and simply make videos for money; there’s nothing wrong with that per se, but there is when you’re appearing to be an unbiased news source.

      You might also be interested in doing an online search for some of the allegations against Yelp.

      Like

      • Nicholas Harman April 19, 2013 at 4:15 am #

        Many young travel bloggers ask not only for the free trip etc but also for money to ‘deliver’ their readership (which on paper, or is that virtual paper?) can be quite considerable.

        I don’t think these bloggers claim to ‘be’ anything, they are simply offering an advertising service.

        Blogs make very little revenue any other way,

        Like

  7. Ankit Parashar May 3, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    It was Awesome reading this… I recently bought a story to my editor which could get the paper and the people evolved to a global platform… my story was denied cause the editor and others nobody had the guts to follow it up. What was shocking was they even ignored the facts. It is heart-breaking to see responsible journalism dying.

    Like

    • John Henry May 4, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

      Responsible journalism died decades ago when reporters became “journalists”.

      I think we might be able to look for ward to a renaissance starting in August or so after the Koch brothers take over the LA Times, Chicago Tribune et al.

      I am hoping for their success in both taking over the papers and bringing reporting back to the US.

      Yes, I am a liberal (libertarian if you prefer) and a huge Koch brothers fan.

      John Henry

      Like

      • Greg Rohloff May 7, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

        Unless the Kochs channel William Allen White, what exactly are you expecting? This is a company a decade ago, when
        i was a working paid reporter, that when it was tagged for alleged massive environmental law violations for how it managed an oil refinery and pipeline operation, started a massive public relations campaign, declaring it to be the environmental company, chock full of photographs from recently acquired ranchlands.

        Like

  8. Amanda Leek June 2, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    Reblogged this on A leek writes and commented:
    This earns all my admiration.

    Like

  9. Keith R. Higgons July 1, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    Reblogged this on wait(er).

    Like

  10. Rocksolidwriter July 3, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    I’m wondering if Olga works for this publication free of charge – I’m pretty sure that she doesn’t.

    Like

  11. Kym July 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    I’m student at Imperial College of London and as part of a school consulting project for a small start-up we are conducting a small survey about freelancing.

    If you are a freelancer or if you hire/employ one, please take 5 minutes to help us fill out the following survey: http://bit.ly/12ENmIG

    Thank you for your help.

    Like

  12. Freelance Journalists July 8, 2013 at 2:46 am #

    I am so glad that someone posted something new like “A day in the life of a Freelance Journalist”. The information you have shared about Freelance Journalists with us is really fantastic and interesting.

    Like

  13. ramblings99 August 10, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    Interesting read. I have noticed all of this happening in recent years over here in the UK too. Don’t know if this is happening in the US and would be interested if it was and maybe it’s a blog topic in itself, but I also have been quite alarmed at the amount of full-time writing jobs that call for people from marketing backgrounds. A typical example might be a company looking for an editor of an internal magazine or website requiring a plethora of proper journalism skills (writing, interviewing, features and news stuff) but yet they turn to marketing professionals to fill the vacancy rather than a journalist. Since when have marketeers been trained journalists?

    Like

  14. multilevelmarketingadvice7236.wikispaces.com August 13, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    For some, it is done for earning a living while for some as a part of the
    hobby. As fun as planning to grow your own organic garden may seem,
    it is very important to start doing your research and getting your
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  15. Micha Hilliard August 26, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    Reblogged this on Notebook.

    Like

  16. jef September 23, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

    The new model (and it seems particular to the yolo generation, or whatever they go by this week) is that everything must be absolutely free, and their ignoramus insistence on same is having a trickle up effect on formerly grown-up institutions like the Atlantic. Nate’s excitement to read them his own justified Riot Act did result in a bit of untoward stammering, though, and his regrettable Michael Kelly Retainer cannonade was strangely freshmanesque and begs the question; if his kids are secure enough in their eating that their dad can rebuff a $125,000 Atlantic retainer offer does Olga really deserve the whole of his penury-suggesting grief? Nate’s the real deal and a writer whose style I adore, but Nate didn’t come off that well in his triumphalist anecdote. But I love him anyway.

    Like

  17. Ambrose Pierce October 22, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    This is brilliant! Thank you Nate.

    I caution anyone who would enter the profession of journalism to take heed of Mr. Thayer’s response to Ms. Khazan. Sadly, Ms. Khazan– whom incidentally just wrote a piece about lack of opportunity in journalism and her own struggles finding a place in the profession–has taken a job that requires her to source content from writers for free, which she proffers in exchange for “exposure”. Before Ms. Khazan’s time, writers were paid for their work. To suggest that Mr. Thayer will find compensation through other avenues as a result of exposure through The Atlantic is pure hogwash, but I suspect it serves as a way for Ms. Khazan to rationalize having to make such requests to authors day in and day out. Ms. Khazan’s quest to become a writer has come with the condition that she must ask others to contribute their work for free. Her career as an editor is dependent on how successful she is in selling The Atlantic brand to authors who value it more than they do financial compensation.

    The new business model has done away with the freelance budget in lieu of a small team of salaried editors willing to scour the internet for content that might be obtained for free. What is very discouraging for young people entering this profession, is that The Atlantic is a publication to which every writer aspires, yet it doesn’t offer compensation? Shame on The Atlantic.

    Like

  18. Dustin Parmenter October 25, 2013 at 12:13 am #

    Could you be a little more self-righteous? Perhaps a little more self-aggrandizing? Did you not get paid for the original article? You should be so lucky that the digital editor for the Atlantic wrote in response to your veteran-pandering, this-is-the-state-of-journalism, someone-once-offered-me-six-figures-to-write-with-no-strings-attached hypocritical crap, but that was probably your game all along, you hack, otherwise this half baked blog would never get any traffic.

    It’s obvious you were baiting from the jump – everyone has bills to pay, quit blaming “the state of journalism” and find another way to make ends meet. I’m a 23 year old aspiring novelist working for shit pay in a job outside my skill set, trying to make it in the most expensive city in America, and I still find zero reasons to complain about not yet being paid for my work. You made a wise move for web traffic, but you’re still a whiney bitch – don’t forget that.

    Like

  19. Karen Pickering October 29, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    I wanted to respond to this as a small magazine publisher. We are freely distributed and our payment is through advertising only. Social media has really taken away from your craft as a journalist and for that I am sorry but it’s also taken away from our ability as publishers to generate revenue since there is so much FREE advertising now. It’s a shame that our crafts seem to be suffering but somehow we have to reinvent ourselves and learn how to survive in a new world where everyone is a writer and photographer. Our business models are changing and we have to figure out a way through this to survive some I’m all about discussing ideas. What would you suggest publishers do to increase our revenue so we can pay writers who do have a wonderful craft that us publishers could not survive without?

    Like

  20. Justice Delayed February 11, 2014 at 8:37 am #

    33 Year Unsolved Assassination Attempt; Cop Shot 5 Times in Shediac, N.B.

    http://shediac1981.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/clarence-bourque-shediac-town-police-officer-shot-5-times-unsolved-assassination-attempt/

    Like

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  43. When to Work For Free (And When Not To) - January 2, 2014

    […] The Atlantic to task for asking to run one of his recent stories without pay. His spontaneous, off-the-cuff complaint became one of his most widely read pieces of writing to […]

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  44. Gratis, honorarfrei, umsonst – Antworten auf unangemessene Fragen | Image and View - January 4, 2014

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  45. What to Make of the Latest Layoffs at Toronto Star | Toronto Standard Toronto Standard - January 13, 2014

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  46. When a Freelance Writer Should Write for Free? | myCareerChoice - January 13, 2014

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  47. Web Content For Beginners – Write, Get Paid, Repeat | Angela Booth's Fab Freelance Writing Blog - February 2, 2014

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  48. Freelance Writing: 4 Things You Can Do To Increase Your Income Today | Angela Booth's Fab Freelance Writing Blog - February 4, 2014

    […] Do you negotiate your gigs? If you’re shy, consider that negotiation is a normal business strategy. Your clients negotiate, and they expect others to do the same. Unfortunately, over the years writers have gotten a reputation for being easy marks. […]

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  49. Everyone Knows Print Is Dead. Which Is Why NSFWCORP Is Launching A Print Edition by The Future of Pando - February 9, 2014

    […] Twittersphere exploded in outrage over the fact that Atlantic Digital tried to republish a well-known journalist‘s work for free. “THIS IS THE STATE OF JOURNALISM TODAY!” they all cried. […]

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