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…..

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

  1. Sally March 5, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    A recent conversation:
    Website publisher: We’d like a 500-word article. How much would you charge?
    Me: A professional of my level and experience receives $1 per word, so $500.
    Publisher: We pay $50.
    I accepted because a) it’s a subject I want to write about, b) I need the $50. Or maybe those should be reversed.

    Like

    • Ian Stone March 5, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

      Ok, I know you needed the $, but I think would have sent them the following, acting like you don’t need their money. Play Poker! It’s fun, you lose most hands, but if you play enough, you’ll occasionally win:

      “How about I charge you 10$ and just send you a bullet list of points? Would that work for your editorial dept?

      At $50 you get two hours of my time. After that, I send you what I have and you are free to doctor it up, BUT you must send it back to me for final approval.

      At $100 you get four hours of my time, which is enough to complete the article but it won’t be polished.

      At $200, etc…”

      I don’t know the answer to this one either… just a thought/suggestion… :) Ian

      Like

  2. Steve Gallo March 5, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    Reblogged this on FULL IMPACT FOOTBALL.

    Like

  3. Mynta Duhamel (@Mynta) March 5, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    I saw that someone wrote to the Atlantic, which inspired me to write to them too. Kind of conveniently, the most applicable category I could label my feedback as was “Advice”.

    ———————-

    There is no category for general feedback, so “Advice” seemed most appropriate. I have read the article by journalist Nate Thayer in which The Atlantic attempted to gain his story without offering compensation of any sort, beyond “exposure”.

    https://natethayer.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-freelance-journalist-2013/

    I wanted to inform you that you have lost your legitimacy in the estimation of this reader. My advice to Atlantic Media Company is to pay your writers. I find this practice utterly unacceptable, and honestly rather pathetic. If you do not wish to be a news site, then do not be a news site. But don’t go begging to legitimate journalists in hopes of bolstering your own reputation for free. I am sure that somewhere up the line is a parent company who can afford to give the Atlantic a budget which can pay for journalists. If you are unable to make any policy changes yourselves, I suggest someone speak to the parent company about amending practices.

    Like

    • Christine March 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

      Well done, Mynta Duhamel! I love your lines. Thank you.

      Like

  4. Jenna Scatena March 5, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    Nate, could you clarify if your article was to be published on the web or for the print magazine? I understand it’s still under the umbrella publishing of The Atlantic, but as far as I’ve heard the Atlantic pays upward of $1/word for articles published in their magazine (though I have not written for them myself). That’s about the average rate for most magazines. However, most WEB platforms–magazine, blog, or otherwise–don’t pay their writers because the web publishing model is not lucrative (though it’s totally bogus that web editors get paid, but writers don’t get paid to supply the content). No matter what, I think writers should get paid for their work, regardless of what medium is appears on. However, I’m hoping that you can add a bit to this argument to distinguish if you think this is an issue with magazines or if it’s actually a problem of publishing free content on the web, which are two different issues that often get blurred together. Thanks for sharing this.

    Like

    • Sandy March 5, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

      Nate is a professional writer. I don’t see how it’s relevant whether the article is to be printed on the back of napkin or online. The publishing house’s online business model does not change the value of the education and experience of the writer. I know business are using this two-fold system. And it’s time we call bullshit on it.

      Like

  5. fbrinleybruton March 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    Reblogged this on F. Brinley Bruton and commented:
    This is so depressing, although I think there is money out there – it’s just that not enough of it is being spent on quality journalism.

    Like

  6. Jennifer Margulis March 5, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    “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.” AMEN BROTHER. All of us who make a living as writers are dealing with some version of this. Good for you for being very clear and honest and direct. I understand newspapers and magazines are in difficult straits but in order for them and us to stay in business they can’t expect to walk all over writers. No one should give their writing away for free, no matter how far the “reach” of the outlet is…

    Like

    • charlesparkinson March 5, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

      While this is a very sad situation, I feel it somewhat unkind that you, being such a professional, have not redacted the name and email of the person who was only doing their job and enforcing the policies of the outlet they work for. Where you hoping her inbox would be deluged with complaints? Journalism is going through rocky ground. Not a new story. This offer was pitiful, goes without saying. Sadly, to carve out a career people have to do things they might not want to do and there are people doing much worse than offering nothing/a pittance for copy. I don’t think it’s fair to drag her through the bushes for trying to work within the parameters of her position (perhaps with a view to one day being in a position to offer the likes of you a reasonable amount for your work). Interesting article which inspired all this.

      Like

      • charlesparkinson March 5, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

        I didn’t mean to write this as a comment on someone else’s post…

        Like

      • wazzupsavo March 5, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

        Hey Charles, no disrespect because I can tell from the tone of your response to that writer that your a courteous person, but I think you know it’s a mean world out there, and in this day and age almost the only way big corps change their ways, apologize, or at a minimum are forced to take a look in the mirror at, in this case, just one in the myriad of the smug, bull in a China shop, take it or leave it, ways they negotiate err, interface with- not just journalists – but the proletariat at large is by putting them on display (as the subject writer who the Atlantic in this case tried to get a freebie off of) in their full ugliness for the world to see. in most cases it is then and only then that they might – and I wouldn’t hold my breathe – might change, or apologize, or anything of that sort. And, when they do, if they do, its usually some see through way like BP celebrating how they have made the Gulf all warm and fuzzy again that makes you want to puke. Just sayin….

        Like

      • istantchick March 5, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

        I think it’s fair game…and I think the editor didn’t do her research. I looked her up…she graduated from college in 2008. As a young editor myself who has worked with established writers, it is critical…and earns respect…when you know who you’re dealing with. She didn’t receive a blind pitch, she was reaching out, and a five second Google would have made her realize she was contacting someone who had a pretty significant journalism reputation and she could have been less of a ditz on her end.

        Like

    • happyhyena March 5, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

      I noted your post in my blog– my main contribution to this is that this sort of thing is becoming increasingly common in nearly every field. I’ve lot count of the people I know who broke their hearts working an Internship job only to be told they “didn’t fit in”, coincidentally as another bright eyed Intern showed up.

      Fundamentally, if your work is worth reading, it is worth paying for, especially if you have a proven track record in the field.

      Like

  7. Teri Buhl March 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    I am so glad you shared this Nate. The Atlantic is clearly suffering budget problems for a while now. When I wrote my investigative piece about Bear Stearns RMBS fraud that turned into a Frontline Film – The Untouchables – and led to an SEC settlement and a NY AG civil fraud suit they only paid me $150 for the story in Jan 2011. I agreed to do it because they were the only pup at the time who had an editor (he’s now with Reuters) who understood fraud and knew this would be big news down the road. Still I really undersold myself. But did make up for it in continued reporting at DealFlow Media (a trade publication) who pays a respectable living wage. I never wrote for The Atlantic again. I learned the trade magazines and online pubs with a paywall are paying the best these days. I gave up caring how many readers my work was seen by because I need to make money selling my stories. It’s sad to see main stream media run away from paying for quality freelance reporting and even sadder to see jurnos allow them to do it.

    Like

  8. Lorenzo Gonzalez March 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    If only everyone responded the way you did, then things would change.

    Like

  9. jane gros March 5, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Surely you know this has gone viral. Me? Twenty nine years at NYT, five Pulitzer nominations, founded their blog “New Old Age,” wrote uniformly well-reviewed book, “A Bittersweet Season” (Knopf 2011, Vintage 2012). Contacted by “Atlantic” to do series of linked 2000 word paid posts. Asked for sked lines. Sked lines sent. “We love them, but can no longer pay.” My reply: “I don’t work for free.” Ante upped to $100, with first a “tryout.” Leaving aside “tryout” request, my reply, “I don’t work for $100. My cleaning lady gets more than that.” Wish I had saved the verbatim exchange. What if we all went on strike, very publicly? A business model based on slave labor would collapse very quickly were there no slaves. And any experienced journalist who works for free, or for $100, is a co-conspirator in the end of a great profession.

    Like

    • Ian Stone March 5, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

      Wow – this is all so enlightening – we are witnessing and discussing the death of the written word… at least in terms of its monetary value. Anyone else cognizant/aware of this and all its implications? Put it to you this way… Sarah Palin can now author a genetic research study and get more hits than the most popular geneticist to do the same. Should we be afraid? Maybe we need Coca Cola and Disney in on this debate… hmmm

      Like

    • dknyc March 5, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

      Right on, Jane. Enough is enough & people really need to not take it anymore.

      Like

  10. Steve March 5, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

    Wow, have times changed… I was paid $1.25 per word for a 1,500-word Business 2.0 article back in 2000.

    Like

  11. mfloeter March 5, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    Gloomy times for writers, indeed. Now, even the best among you consider “for free” proper English. Makes me want to cry.

    Like

  12. Carolina A. Miranda (@cmonstah) March 5, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    Thank you thank you for writing this. A while back I was approached by a prominent, well-funded website to write an original feature-length story related to cognitive development. It would require poring various jargon-y studies and interviewing scads of scientists, while throwing in some IRL examples, to produce a clearly written take on infant language development. For this, they were offering me $100 and lots of “exposure.” I turned them down. I hope other writers learn to do the same, too. My question is: Do their staffers work for exposure? Do their ad sales people work for exposure? Do their marketing people do it for exposure? Probably not. I’m always mystified that writers are somehow beholden to the notion that our skills have no value….

    All if it brings me back to Harlan Ellison. He says it very well:

    Like

    • derek mornoe March 7, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

      Fantastic video. Thank you,

      Like

  13. Ann Douglas (@anndouglas) March 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    Dumbfounded (although I know I shouldn’t be). I mean, The Atlantic? Thank you for reminding them that professionals expect to be paid.

    Like

  14. Pullmypork March 5, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    I would like some free advertising. How about the cover?

    Like

  15. Alina Shanin March 5, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    Glad to see you stood your ground. It’s definitely a hard time to be a journalist…

    Like

    • Steve March 5, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

      CNN completely jettisoned its investigate news unit. Not that CNN was quality journalism to begin with (at least it had a promising start, however), but what kind of a bizarro world do we live in when the supposed cable news pioneer has no use for a single investigative reporter? In all honesty, I get much better information from the Daily Show than most supposedly “serious” news outlets. Thankfully we still have Democracy Now, Bill Moyers, and Matt Taibi.

      Like

  16. NYLG March 5, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    you are awesome for sharing this. If writers continue to expose this kind of thing, we’ll hopefully see a change. Hopefully.

    Like

    • Ian Stone March 5, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

      I guess I just figured out why I’m so drawn to this string – No matter what we do here, we will not see a change back to yesteryear vis a vis authoring/editorial/writing norms and practices.
      It’s sick, it’s wrong, it’s even bordering on criminal, but it’s also… the new literary reality.

      We’re going to have to swallow this one folks. Ian ;0)

      Like

      • jane gros March 6, 2013 at 12:37 am #

        Who says we have to swallow this one? Clean houses. Drive a cab. Eat tuna fish and peanut butter. It’s only the “new literary reality” if literary professionals permit it. And those who do are dooming the rest of us.

        Like

  17. DrummerCT1 March 5, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    Very interesting. Glad for the position you took with the Atlantic. Similar thing happens with musicians and live music, including bands being asked to bring their own audience to the bar/club/whatever as a precondition.

    As an aside, “comments” to material published online also add value at given web site (well, sometimes); that being said, in this instance, I’m more than happy to provide this “comment” for free! ;-)

    In all seriousness, and in a related fashion, there’s other social media forms that are founded on user-generated content contributed for free based on the idea that they’re providing a service – think Facebook, Twitter. They earn huge amounts of profit yet share no $$$ with the users. Is the equation balanced? Should contributors receive something more in return from social media outlets?

    Like

    • Ian Stone March 5, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

      Precisely – re: Social media… this amazing invention that connects the world to one or three social databases, has, by natural consequence, diluted the power and monetary worth of the written word. Social media is not squarely to blame – our new methodologies for speaking/sharing info/research – they’ve all changed. As writers, we need to adapt to this. This is CRUCIAL… I think. Things are NOT going back to the way they were so as writers, we need to “niche” and to get more involved/linked/networked in order to get our pieces/views out there, sadly for less and less $… until you’re syndicated of course… :)

      Like

  18. Steve March 5, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    Oh, and next time they offer “exposure” you should offer some “exposure” — via texted crotch shot — of your own.

    Like

  19. Sarah March 5, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    Oh snap. It’s always worth putting a price on your time and talent.

    Like

  20. Jay March 5, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    Nate, your response to Olga was insulting. You were insinuating her, it’s very clear, and she responded professionally. And you surely know that times have changed, that you’re perhaps earning a lot less as a feature writer than you did in your glory days.

    I’m not saying you should write the article. Just stop feeding your fat ego at the expense of others.

    Like

    • Michael Davis March 5, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

      Just what was he “insinuating?” It certainly wasn’t her. You can not insinuate a person. He could insinuate something about her, certainly. This is not the company in which one uses words one does not have a firm grasp upon.

      Like

      • Drew Limsky March 5, 2013 at 11:26 pm #

        Thank you, Michael.

        Jay: better to have a fat ego than to be illiterate. I insinuate you.

        Like

      • Ernst Blofeld March 6, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

        We appreciate proper grammar too. I believe you meant: “This is not the company in which one uses words upon which one does not have a firm grasp.” Apologies; I couldn’t resist.

        Like

  21. Allia Zobel Nolan March 5, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    Ah, yes, the old “exposure” ploy. I was once asked to have 4,000 of one of my books delivered to my house (where in the world would I put them?), with the express purpose of my signing them to go in a special promotion a certain store was having in all of its many outlets as an added bonus to entice buyers.When I asked about payment, I was offered “exposure.” Needless to say, I was not interested. I feel your pain.

    Like

  22. Christopher Cook March 5, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Hi Nate and others–yes this is deeply distressing, I too am a veteran journalist and author, 20 years of writing for national publications under my belt, and exceedingly difficult now just to survive. I’m on food stamps, pitching and applying for jobs, and observing the field I’ve devoted my life to erode before my eyes. I would like to share a couple pieces I wrote on this, one for Salon.com, the other for The Progressive. I welcome more dialogue on this, and thank you for your posts Nate. – Christopher Cook
    The Wages of Words: http://www.progressive.org/wages_of_words.html
    The Shame and Pride of Joining Food Stamp Nation: http://www.salon.com/2012/01/27/joining_the_food_stamp_nation/

    Like

  23. Ian Stone March 5, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    I can’t explain why I am so “drawn” to this string… perhaps it is because I’ve seen my “monetary” societal value decrease over the last 13 years, as a writer. However, what that has forced by consequence is a larger business view whereas I operate as a wearer of 12 hats – I own three companies, I am a public and media relations “guru” (small scale to be sure) and I am always on the look out for opportunities re: publishing/producing/ spreading the word…

    It’s a different world today than it was back in 2000.

    Thank you for bringing this to everyone’s attention.

    Like

  24. Caroline Leopold (@caroline815) March 5, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    I presume that you were fairly compensated by NK News because your original article was published there. And that the article circulated well online because that the Atlantic editor discovered the story and wanted a fresh rewrite, exclusive to the website.

    That gave me some hope for journalism in that smaller or trade outlets can compete by paying their journalists to produce excellent content. And excellent content generates interest, sharing, and more page views. That leads to a virtuous cycle of reader excitement and investment in quality content.

    Therefore, I argue that we can reframe this story as both a win for Nate Thayer and NK News, who to me seem far mightier than The Atlantic, who acquires online content through begging and subterfuge. Whether smaller news outlets will survive is another matter, as larger publications who don’t pay their writers have more money to spend in squashing the competition. I, as a writer and discerning reader, will be more mindful to visit and support outlets that pay their writers.

    Thank you for you posting your story. I hope more of us will continue to do the same!

    Like

  25. kyliehennagin March 5, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    Reblogged this on Kylie Hennagin and commented:
    Really eye-opening. How are journalists supposed to even get to the level of their career where they CAN write for free when large companies like The Atlantic want writers to write for free…or paying only $100/piece? Is this the nature of freelancing today?

    Like

  26. wandlampen March 5, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    I am always happy when I find such a contributory

    Like

  27. Southern Beale March 5, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

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

    Oh geez, how often have I heard that song and dance??? One more time with feeling: FREELANCE DOES NOT MEAN FREE!!!!

    Like

  28. David W Berner March 5, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    The only way freelance journalists will continue to get paid is for all to stop doing work for free, even if offered publication by respected publications. And it isn’t just about money; it’s about respect. I’ve been asked, as a broadcast journalist (part of my work) to produce work for special channels or delivery system outside the traditional for free, and the lure is supposed to be that it’s a big broadcast outlet, with lots of listeners/viewers. Sorry, not for free.

    Like

    • Ted March 6, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

      Sounds good to me but like a strike it will only work if everyone does it, which won’t happen. Someone will always go for it and even if a lot of great journalists boycott, pubs will get some bright eyed and bushy-tailed intern or recent graduate to write the articles. The quality will go down but the journalists won’t be any better off.

      Like

      • nick March 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

        The thing is we cant hang around the factory gates on strike, warming our keyboard-calloused hands over oil drum fires and occasionally having a punch up with the police as we dissuade ‘scabs’ from going into work. Industrial action isn’t really an option.

        Like

  29. Chris Roberts March 5, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    Not free from blame or how Nate Thayer co-opted “Atlantic” editor Olga Khazan’s emails and posted them on his blog, Additionally, Felix Salmon states this about the flap: *Update: In another layer of irony, it turns out that Thayer’s piece itself was deeply indebted to — and yet didn’t cite or link to — Mark Zeigler’s 2006 story on the same subject.

    Like

  30. Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly March 5, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

    It so frustrating that everyone wants quality content for free! Pay the writer, be it print or digital! Good for you! KUDOS!

    Like

  31. Josh Saggau (@JoshSaggau) March 5, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

    I was just curious, as a soon-to-be journalism graduate, how this translates to internships. All the teachers at my university (all current or ex-journalists) talk about internships as an important part of the learning process as a young journalist. The problem is that it leads to this notion that publishers don’t have to pay writers for their work and writers, in turn, come out of school having the idea that working for free is alright. It seems the trend is too far set to be reversed and it would take a monumental overhaul of the current system to change. Meanwhile, publications are dying all over the place and newspapers continue their steady decline, so there is no incentive for them to step up and pay writers when even the best publications are seeing less and less money come their way every year.

    It’s unfortunate that this is the reality we live in but there doesn’t seem to be much we can do to change it.

    Like

  32. John Hill March 5, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    Perhaps if you were a better negotiator and less of a (-swallows word-), you’d have less trouble paying those bills you keep complaining about. Not only did you choose to forego any kind of reasonable negotiating (you could have for example given her this piece for free, and extracted a promise for a paid-for piece next budget cycle), you also alienated a pretty major publication, and possibly many more by being so stuck-up, and then publishing these e-mails on top of it.

    I applaud Ms Khazan for handing this professionally and courteously despite your trolling. And whatever your track record might be, I had never heard of you, and probably never will again. Looking into said record, you seem to have done some original and interesting stuff in the late 1990s, but guess what? The 90s are over. They have been for quite some time, sorry to bring this bad news to you. It’s 2013 now, and if you ever want to pay those bills, you could have done with the extra syndication exposure (nknews.org, seriously?!). The additional input required was minimal and you would have built some up some credit, goodwill, a friendly contact, potential for future paid work etc. Instead, you go playing hard to get. Way to go for building your network. Did no-one ever tell you that for any freelancer (journalist or other), it is about three things: network, network and network? This whole episode says nothing about the state of journalism (bla, bla, bla, armchair philosopher, time for coffee, again), the only thing it says is that you are arrogant. Good luck with this, and the bills.

    Like

    • Keith March 5, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

      Wow — John Hill really is an (swallows word). What a gratuitously nasty comment to make.

      Like

    • Michael Istmo March 5, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

      No, the only thing it says is that you’re stupid. I bet Thayer has a much better network than Khazan.

      Like

    • Drew Limsky March 5, 2013 at 11:02 pm #

      John, you’re a prick. Once in a while, if feels good to assert some self-respect. Maybe as important as money or your career in networking.

      Like

    • Denver March 5, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

      “you could have for example given her this piece for free, and extracted a promise for a paid-for piece next budget cycle”

      You’re a dum-dum. Or a schill. Likely both.

      Like

    • Stan March 6, 2013 at 12:20 am #

      John, what is it you do for a living?

      Or do you just wander around the internet with praise-from-Caesar-is-praise-indeed opinions on arrogance while handing out gratuitously trite advice for free in the hope that you may one day be paid for it?

      You’re the kind of guy who tells a woman that if she has sex with you now, just this once, then one day, you may even marry her…

      Good luck with that, and the bills.

      Like

    • Ben Young March 6, 2013 at 1:28 am #

      This post by Mr. John Hill is despicable. What a nasty thing to write. Did someone piss in your Cheerios the morning when you wrote this?

      Like

    • Jack Lebowitz March 6, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

      Oh yeah “networking”, the all-purpose career advice for the 21st century, right after “unpaid internships” (aka “slave labor”) and “positive thinking” (the Secret, hey it worked for Oprah and its author).

      Lemme guess, John, you’re a “job coach” or a “motivational speaker”, or maybe a “wealth management advisor”,
      “resume advisor” or some other similarly esteemed occupation.

      BTW, someone did google that “professional editor” at the Atlantic the author was corresponding and found she was three years out of college. Probably an unpaid intern looking for “exposure”, living in mom’s basement or sharing a studio apartment with two other 20-something girls, trying to get her “foot in the door”.

      But this is the internet, so for every action there’s an opposite clueless troll reaction. You’re it.

      Like

  33. Michele March 5, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    Dear Mr. Thayer, After reading this, I want to send you a hug. I make my living writing. So, I appreciate this. Thank You.

    Like

  34. Frank Shipe March 5, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    This is the sort of thing I might expect to find in Springfield, Missouri, but with the Atlantic? Please….

    Like

  35. tony levelle March 5, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    Reblogged at my Google blog. Thanks for sharing.
    http://tinyurl.com/atoer3s

    Like

  36. BenVess March 5, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    Can I get a free subscription to The Atlantic? I promise to be sure the magazine will be left in exposed spaces for others to read too…

    Like

  37. merr March 5, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    Just shared your excellent post. Thank you for putting eloquent words to a most non-eloquent topic.

    Like

  38. conor March 5, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

    Is it the default rule that business emails are on the record?

    Like

  39. Greer Chesher March 5, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Occasional Chair and commented:
    Reblogged. Amazing. and thank you

    Like

  40. JonG March 5, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    5 years ago I was being paid to blog on a major news website (you would know the name), and they told me I had a couple of months to either get my page views up (presumably by dumbing down and sensationalizing my posts, which were being written for a professional audience) or they would stop paying me. However, they did offer me the opportunity to keep blogging on the site, but for free until the page views went up. Needless to say, we parted ways, and in that case, the whole biz model of that portion of the site went kaput.

    Like

  41. Drew Limsky March 5, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

    Nate, you’re the man. Olga deserved everything she got. And her apologists are losers. You taught this recent college grad something about self-respect; she’s lucky to have a job at all. Everyone has to take responsibility for his/her actions.

    Like

  42. Dexter March 5, 2013 at 11:08 pm #

    Isn’t the Atlantic out of business? Till now, thought so… THAT’S how much the Atlantic impacts my life… who needs exposure? The Atlantic I dare say, not you, the pro journalist.

    Like

  43. Dexter March 5, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

    Might I add. Olga is apparently getting paid for her job. I ponder if one asked her if she would be willing to work for free for the Atlantic, would she be willing to do so? Doubtful.

    Like

    • Drew Limsky March 5, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

      Dexter, damned right!

      Like

  44. Cynthia Astle March 5, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    Sounds about right. I’ve been in journalism since 1973. I’ve been freelancing or contract since 2005. Tomorrow I’ll have to take a writing test to prove to a new vendor that I can actually write.

    Like

  45. Coloured Print March 6, 2013 at 12:24 am #

    Reblogged this on A creative thought and commented:
    JouJourn

    Like

  46. West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) March 6, 2013 at 12:38 am #

    $100? From THE ATLANTIC? Even if they HAD paid? And to think I feel guilty about only paying $75 for freelancers’ stories published on our little ol’ neighborhood-news site. And that’s just for the relatively simple features. If I could find somebody experienced to collaborate with on some of the hard-news stories – it would be significantly more. (editor@westseattleblog.com)

    Like

  47. Fiona Lake March 6, 2013 at 1:05 am #

    Same for photographers. Wish I had a dollar for each time someone has said to me over the last 10 years, “we can’t pay you anything, but it’s good publicity.” My motto, which everyone should chant, including hobbyists: “IF IT’S WORTH USING/PUBLISHING IT’S WORTH PAYING (a reasonable rate) FOR”. I don’t need publicity, I need cash in the bank.
    A mag I wrote & photographed stories for over a decade, then offered me less than I started on for work I knew was better quality. Had the editor had a pay rise in ten years? Graphic Designer? Receptionists? Cleaners? etc? Of course! It’s just like farming; the producer is the one who gets the squeeze. Same applies to book authors also.

    Like

    • patrick March 6, 2013 at 7:00 am #

      Dear Fiona,
      I am with you on your points, but I can’t say I’m with you on your chant: ‘IF IT’S WORTH USING/PUBLISHING IT’S WORTH PAYING (a reasonable rate) FOR’. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

      Like

  48. Lula Lisbon March 6, 2013 at 1:11 am #

    Reblogged this on Kisses Like Wine and commented:
    I think this needs more attention. Writers — and all artists, no matter their medium — should not work for free, nor be expected to do so. Shame on the Atlantic, and on anyone who expects slave labor from creatives.

    Like

  49. Czuko March 6, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    Great Nate! so hard way for we…the freelancers. Here in Spain we both, the photojournalists and the journalists have the same problem every day! it is terrible. thank you for sharing!

    Like

  50. ridexc March 6, 2013 at 1:48 am #

    Reblogged this on Writing From the Right Side of the Stall and commented:
    Scoring an assignment from The Atlantic … freelance nirvana, right? Not so much, as it turns out.

    Like

    • Tanja Cilia March 6, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

      This particular person was only told he would not be paid after the initial contact. Had the introductory note read something like “We would like a rehash of your article but we cannot pay except in exposure” it would have been a different kettle of fish… and you know it. On spec, I would say that the person who offered the (non-)deal thought the writer would jump at the opportunity to be read by a different demographic. It happens to all of us. One editor even told me I was “lucky” that he had not asked me to pay for being allowed (his words, not mine) to write in his publication, and that he was only doing it because I am quite good and he liked my style and my take on the topic.

      Like

    • Larry G March 6, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

      The National Writers Union (freelancers of all genre and platform), has been organizing around this issue, especially since the sale of the Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million. This is the new business model. Its why freelancers’ need a union. More power to Nate Thayer!

      Like

      • Julia Chance March 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

        Was about to forward this to you, Larry. So glad you weighed in.

        Like

      • dougdeal01 March 6, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

        Then publications would just get one of the others that aren’t in your union. The problem is that there are too many writers who write pretty much the same stuff and anyone can distribute their material nationally and internationally with very little effort due to the internet.

        Why would a publication spend 10x on your article when an equally competent writer across the country is willing to do it for x? It is unfortunate, but one does not get rich selling commodities by the single unit, one grain of rice at a time.

        The magazine or newspaper might be selling your article for a profit, but they are also selling the printers ink, the pulper’s paper and the binders glue. Until one finds a niche that someone demands, a writer will be paid in the same way that reems of paper are purchased.

        Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. I’m Glad I Was An Unpaid Blogger | WP Demo - March 7, 2013

    […] was an unpaid blogger and I’m proud of that. After following the recent back and forth between an established journalist and The Atlantic over the depressingly low pay of freelance writers, I thought I’d explore what […]

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  2. Doing that one thing — Tech News and Analysis - March 7, 2013

    […] all the handwringing about the changing landscape. When I see all the arguments — whether it is Nate Thayer’s story about The Atlantic editor asking him to write for free in exchange for exposure, or The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal’s […]

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  3. Leaked financial network map illustrates grim newspaper future. | Obscene Works - March 7, 2013

    […] seems to be part of a trend towards zero for the value of reportage. TorStar mother corp engages in “anonymous” yellow […]

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  4. Doing that one thing ← techtings - March 7, 2013

    […] all the handwringing about the changing landscape. When I see all the arguments — whether it is Nate Thayer’s story about The Atlantic editor asking him to write for free in exchange for exposure, or The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal’s […]

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  5. Nate Thayer Bites the Hand That Doesn’t Feed | The Domino Theory by Jeff Winbush - March 7, 2013

    […] Thayer’s somewhat tense exchange  with an editor of The Atlantic went viral and provided an example of the freelancer’s frustration in finding paying markets for their work.   Thayer published the entire correspondence on his blog. […]

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  6. The Atlantic responds to unpaid freelancer drama, offers a State of the Biz - March 7, 2013

    […] Monday freelancer Nate Thayer created a buzz when he made it known that The Atlantic had asked to republish his work without offering to pay him for it. Two days […]

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  7. Global Tech Review | Doing that one thing - March 7, 2013

    […] all the handwringing about the changing landscape. When I see all the arguments — whether it is Nate Thayer’s story about The Atlantic editor asking him to write for free in exchange for exposure, or The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal’s […]

    Like

  8. I’m Glad I Was An Unpaid Blogger | Crowdfunding News - March 7, 2013

    […] an unpaid blogger and I’m proud of that. After following the recent back and forth between an established journalist and The Atlantic over the depressingly low pay of freelance writers, I thought I’d explore […]

    Like

  9. Doing that one thing - March 7, 2013

    […] all the handwringing about the changing landscape. When I see all the arguments — whether it is Nate Thayer’s story about The Atlantic editor asking him to write for free in exchange for exposure, or The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal’s […]

    Like

  10. A day in the life of a freelancer, intern, struggling journalist-2013 | burritos & mosquitos - March 7, 2013

    […] award-winning, well-respected and well-established freelance journalist Nate Thayer titled “A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist–2013.” The post shows an email exchange between Thayer and The Atlantic‘s Global Editor, who […]

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  11. I’m Glad I Was An Unpaid Blogger ← Redmondpie - March 7, 2013

    […] an unpaid blogger and I’m proud of that. After following the recent back and forth between an established journalist and The Atlantic over the depressingly low pay of freelance writers, I thought I’d explore […]

    Like

  12. WRITING ON THE ETHER: That "W" in AWP - March 7, 2013

    […] it’s not a lot of money. And when The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal answers Thayer’s A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist—2013 with his own  A Day in the Life of a Digital Editor, 2013, his candor is a gleaming example of […]

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  13. I’m Glad I Was An Unpaid Blogger - March 7, 2013

    […] an unpaid blogger and I’m proud of that. After following the recent back and forth between an established journalist and The Atlantic over the depressingly low pay of freelance writers, I thought I’d explore […]

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  14. The new economics of media: If you want free content, there’s an almost infinite supply by Mathew Ingram | World Media Trend - March 7, 2013

    […] Nate Thayer set off the media equivalent of a fragmentation grenade on Tuesday, with a lament about the state of freelance writing that sent virtual shrapnel flying in all directions. The main target of his ire was The Atlantic, […]

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  15. The Secret Weapon in the Pockets of the Twerps | EduBubble - March 7, 2013

    […] open up our blinders and think of the larger issues. Think about those impoverished youngsters. Why here’s one posting from a not-so-young freelance writer who is offered zero dollars to write for the Atlantic. I wonder […]

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  16. Things That Make You Go, “Hmmmmm….” (Or: A Day In the Life of A Digital Editor, 2013) | Writing From the Right Side of the Stall - March 7, 2013

    […] so when Nate Thayer published emails with our newest editor (second week on the job), I can see how that might happen. How you might finish writing your last […]

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  17. Así pide disculpas una revista cuando le solicita a un periodista colaborar gratis | Clases de Periodismo - March 7, 2013

    […] hizo pública su indignación en su blog personal. “Desgraciadamente no podemos pagarte nada por ello (por el artículo), pero tenemos una […]

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  18. Coach Ellison on Free Work | No! - March 7, 2013

    […] else dropped this in the comments section of the Nate Thayer blog post .. forgot how great this […]

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  19. Will Write For Food: The Digital Freelance Journalist Dilemna - 10,000 Words - March 7, 2013

    […] I am exhausted from following the explosion of opinion about how much freelance journalists should be paid after writer Nate Thayer took on The Atlantic for offering to publish his work, for free. […]

    Like

  20. [The Freelance Life] On Writing for “Exposure” — And How to Just Say No. - March 7, 2013

    […] Have Thoughts. This week, it will not surprise you to hear that the link I keep getting emailed is Nate Thayer’s dust-up with The Atlantic when one of their online editors asked him to write a 1200 word article for […]

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  21. The Wrong Way to Approach a Freelancer | Gucci Little Piggy - March 7, 2013

    […] discussion about freelancing which was generated by journalist Nate Thayer in his interaction with an Atlantic editor is striking a lot of cords because everyone online who […]

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  22. The Truth About Freelance Writing | Anjali Enjeti - March 7, 2013

    […] Internet has gone haywire (Laura at Apt. 11D has gathered the links) over the past few days, over a critical blog post by a well-known, extremely talented writer named Nate Thayer, republishing his conversation with a […]

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  23. Should You Write For Free? Journos Weigh In on the Thayer/Atlantic Kerfuffle - FishbowlLA - March 7, 2013

    […] freelance journalist Nate Thayer posted an email exchange he’d had with an editor at The Atlantic, who hoped to publish his work without […]

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  24. Will Write For Food: The Digital Freelance Journalist Dilemma - 10,000 Words - March 7, 2013

    […] I am exhausted from following the explosion of opinion about how much freelance journalists should be paid after writer Nate Thayer took on The Atlantic for offering to publish his work, for free. […]

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  25. Το Παρόν Της Freelance Δημοσιογραφίας, Με Έμφαση Στο «Free» | θοδωρής γεωργακόπουλος - March 7, 2013

    […] προάλλες ο δημοσιογράφος Νέιτ Χέιερ έγραψε (δωρεάν) στο blog του για μια δυσάρεστη εμπειρία που είχε με έναν editor του […]

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  26. Jets Flight Connections 03-07-13 - NY Superbowl Insider - March 7, 2013

    […] football related, but blogging/writing related, from Nate Thayer: A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist. Freelance is not […]

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  27. Writing For Free, Paying the Price | DatzHott TVDatzHott TV - March 7, 2013

    […] can’t pay you for it,” Khazan wrote him in an email that Thayer has reprinted on his blog, “but we do reach 13 million readers a month.” Thayer wrote back to explain that he […]

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  28. 10 Thursday PM Reads | The Big Picture - March 7, 2013

    […] • If you make the same forecast repeatedly for 15 years, you will eventually be right: Dow 36,000 Is Attainable Again (Bloomberg)  • Why analysts should not be investors, Andy Zaky edition (Reuters) • What to do now if you’re mostly in cash (MarketWatch) but see Wrong question. (The Reformed Broker) • More to Dow’s Rally Than Just the Fed (WSJ) • When the Corporate Elite Supported Raising Taxes (Echoes) • Why 401k Investors Chase Performance – and How to Prevent It (Fiduciary News) see also 401Ks are a disaster (USA Today) • Investors Seek Ways to Profit From Global Warming (Businessweek) • To Hell with Reg FD! Bank of America Investors Grill CFO At Dinner (The Street) • How Disney Bought Lucasfilm—and Its Plans for ‘Star Wars’ (Businessweek) • A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist—2013 (Natethayer) […]

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  29. Thousand Words « Can you believe we’re writing about writing again? - March 7, 2013

    […] of a The Atlantic editor, who contacted Thayer about using the piece; contact which elicited this piece. The responses to his work have been broad, and reminded me of a conversation I had with Andrew, an […]

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  30. The Daily Linkage | HeyMullaney - March 7, 2013

    […] Internet Time. Oh, silly me, what is this even about, you ask? If you didn’t hear about it, freelance journalist Nate Thayer was approached by The Atlantic to redo a published piece of his that had appeared on a different website. The Atlantic did not […]

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  31. Angst at the Atlantic | Fraser Sherman's Blog - March 7, 2013

    […] And this, in turn leads us to the current flap at the Atlantic (links courtesy of Mari Ness). Nate Thayer, a professional journalist and freelancer of 25 years experience, got a request from the magazine […]

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  32. What is the Worth of Words? | HeyMullaney - March 7, 2013

    […] freelance writer/journalist. Nate Thayer wrote a story about Dennis Rodman going to North Korea and The Atlantic wanted to publish it without paying him, nudging him instead towards the great exposure he would get from publishing on The Atlantic. I was […]

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  33. ….the difference between a “slut” and a “whore”…. | stonerwithaboner - March 7, 2013

    […] white nationalist race realist Chuck Rudd always dredges up interesting links. Here’s one he dug up of a writer turning down unpaid work. I “get” the writer’s […]

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  34. How much is a piece of content worth? | PandoDaily - March 7, 2013

    […] was brought into the national dialogue very recently when noted journalist Nate Thayer wrote a scathing condemnation of an editor for The Atlantic who dared ask him to contribute for […]

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  35. Hardboiled Mystery and Film Noir Teaser Post | Random and Sundry Things - March 7, 2013

    […] A day in the life of a freelance journalist — 2013 via Nate Thayer. I hear that! Ha! […]

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  36. Farting Starvist | On a limb - March 8, 2013

    […] This is really depressing. Nate Thayer is more than established journalist. At the same time, his post more or less amounts to a whine. I have had several unpaid internships, I have one now. I also spent 18 months getting paid $40,000 to sit in front of a computer and do nothing. I could’ve been writing during that time, and made money while I did the thing I liked to do for free. But, it never really happened. There was something very oppressive about knowing that I was responsible for a job, no matter how undemanding it was. Therein lies the rub I think. Sure, doing things for free are still fun and worthwhile, and they warm the soul etc., but getting paid for work that you hate not doing as much as you hate doing is worse. Inversely, getting paid to do that thing you find fun and worthwhile is the most validating feeling, or so I imagine. […]

    Like

  37. Médias: et demain (9) - News Resources - March 8, 2013

    […] . Les freelance, ces petites mains exploitées par la presse A day in the life of a freelance […]

    Like

  38. The sorry, sorry state of journalism | The Penn Ave Post - March 8, 2013

    […] on March 8, 2013 by Dylan ers Earlier this week, longtime freelance journalist Nate Thayer wrote a blog post about how The Atlantic had asked to republish a condensed version of one of his articles without […]

    Like

  39. La dura vita del freelance digitale | Festival Internazionale del Giornalismo - March 8, 2013

    […] attorno al caso che ha visto coinvolti il giornalista Nate Thayer e The Atlantic. Thayer ha infatti pubblicato lunedì scorso il testo dell’intera conversazione con una editor del magazine, Olga Khazan, […]

    Like

  40. 4 Ways To Make Digital Journalism Suck Less | ccnew - March 8, 2013

    […] the future of journalism? It’s pretty grim if you ask the writer Nate Thayer or pretty much anyone else working in digital media today. The technological tools that make it […]

    Like

  41. » I get three wishes, right? 500 Days To 50 - March 8, 2013

    […] been marinating in his wisdom and the articles he forwarded:  Huffington Post doesn’t pay, online writing isn’t respected and this guy is amazing writer what makes me think I can write. Okay, those aren’t the real […]

    Like

  42. Book News: Hilary Mantel Has 'No Regrets' About Kate Middleton Remarks | eJumo - March 8, 2013

    […] Nate Thayer was enraged earlier this week when he says The Atlantic asked him to repurpose one of his articles for its […]

    Like

  43. Friday Finds for Writers | ErikaDreifus.com - March 8, 2013

    […] have been talking this week about freelancer Nate Thayer’s post, “A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist.” You can read an example of the discussion here. See also Jane Friedman’s take on “The […]

    Like

  44. dartbeat » From the Newsroom - March 8, 2013

    […] Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist — Nate Thayer From the Atlantic: Thanks for responding. Maybe by the end of the week? 1,200 words? We […]

    Like

  45. Getting paid in the digital economy - March 8, 2013

    […] week has seen the latest round of recriminations on this topic following Nate Thayer’s posting of correspondence with The Atlantic, in which he was invited to edit a previously published 4,300 word article down to 1,200 words for […]

    Like

  46. How much is a piece of content worth? | Bamboo Innovator - March 8, 2013

    […] was brought into the national dialogue very recently when noted journalist Nate Thayer wrote a scathing condemnation of an editor for The Atlantic who dared ask him to contribute for […]

    Like

  47. The Rise Of Paywalls | BookSocial.net - March 8, 2013

    […] Be wary about giving away your labour in exchange for “awareness”. Here’s a story about how The Atlantic tried to get a journalist to work for nothing. […]

    Like

  48. Friday Reads: “How Do You Write a Great Work of Fiction?” by Jennifer Egan | Critical Margins - March 8, 2013

    […] A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist — 2013 from Nate Thayer […]

    Like

  49. Paying for it | drew3000 - March 8, 2013

    […] freelance journalist recently published his correspondence with an editor of The Atlantic on his blog. The magazine with a claimed circulation of 13 million […]

    Like

  50. The Garage » Reading list after a visit to Reporting II class - March 8, 2013

    […] Nieman Journalism Lab summed it up this morning. Two key reads: Nate Thayer’s “A day in the life of a freelance journalist — 2013,” and Reuters’ Felix Salmon’s “The problem with online freelance […]

    Like

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