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

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

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

    Like

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

    Reblogged this on wait(er).

    Like

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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
    equipment before you do so. However, it is also a very challenging profession for those relying
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    Like

  8. Micha Hilliard August 26, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    Reblogged this on Notebook.

    Like

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

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