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?

Olga Khazan

 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.



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.


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.


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.



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.



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…..

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

  1. 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.


    • 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.


      • 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.


  2. 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.


  3. 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!


  4. 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.


  5. 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.


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

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


    • 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.


    • 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.


    • 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.


    • 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.


    • 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?


    • 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.


  6. 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.


  7. 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….


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

    Reblogged at my Google blog. Thanks for sharing.


  9. 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…


  10. 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.


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

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


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

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


  13. 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.


  14. 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.


  15. 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.


  16. 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.


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

      Dexter, damned right!


  17. 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.


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

    Reblogged this on A creative thought and commented:


  19. 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)


  20. 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.


    • 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.


  21. 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.


  22. 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!


  23. 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.


    • 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.


    • 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!


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

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


      • 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.


  24. John D. March 6, 2013 at 2:25 am #

    Writers should start advocating for the Article V Convention. It’s the corruption of government, which has corrupted media, and today neither the government nor media conglomerates want writers around. Corporations don’t want humans who think. Consciousness could be altered right back to what it was when writers were sought after, but to get there will require a tipping-point majority of Americans cognizant and desiring the objective solution. Write your member of Congress asking what they think of America dusting off the Constitution and convoking a federal convention in order to propose amendments they never will.Then write a story about their response.

    Click to access R42592.pdf


  25. John March 6, 2013 at 2:44 am #

    You journalists are ridiculous.

    No one is obligated to pay you a single penny. Your rates are determined by the ROI that you produce. Anything beyond that is wasteful. Profit is the name of the game. If you want to get paid more, then find ways to generate more profit for the companies you work for.

    If you don’t like this idea of working to generate more profit, move to a country with a socialist government.

    “Need comes before greed”, said no wise man. Ever.


    • jane March 6, 2013 at 5:27 am #

      this comment intrigues me. How many industries pay workers on a precise measure of return on investment? Teachers? – nope. Police? nope. Army? definitely not. politicians? – never. The only one I can think of that comes close is advertising or retail sales.
      A smart company would recognise the traffic/ interest/ readers/ sales or whatever that writers bring and pay accordingly – most know their product would be meaningless without it.
      The only argument for not paying as much nowadays is companies are having more problems earning money from advertising, however, that’s a reflection on the changing industry, not the quality of journalist’s work.
      What we do need to do is work towards a different model where readers recognise their need to pay for quality writing instead of expecting everything for free. And then whinging when journos don’t write stories that echo their own view of the world.
      So what return on investment do you bring your industry, John?


      • Joe Wahler March 6, 2013 at 8:59 am #

        I find it interesting that your examples of “industries , i.e. police/teachers/army/politicians, are all government employees and definitely not companies, nor industries.

        Are you possibly confusing them with for profit business, or was that done intentionally?


      • N Levine March 6, 2013 at 11:38 am #

        Trolls live under bridges and have very little profit motive.

        The trouble with John’s logic is he fails to understand journalism and the very industry that makes it valuable. The articles aren’t the revenue generator — the advertisers pay the journals for their ads. The well written, well respected journals attract a certain readership. Those readers attract the advertisers.

        The trend I see in writing articles or shooting photography is that the creator is expected to relish the visibility instead of receiving an actual dollar amount.

        In other words, writers and photographers are all too often asked to work for free. That’s what makes copywriting so attractive now.


      • jane March 6, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

        @Joe, purely coincidence. Same applies to builders, plumbers, secretaries, receptionists, graphic artists, architects – I could go on. You might get paid per job or have to occasionally meet KPIs, but few people are paid in direct proportion to the profit they earn their employer – although some online writers are now paid per ‘click’ on a story.


    • Eoghan McLaughlin March 6, 2013 at 5:46 am #

      The issue is that a for-profit organisation was soliciting the use of his professionally-provided product to facilitate the service for which they charge their advertisers, and offering him no money for that product.

      The Atlantic was attempting to attain R for no I. If they are unable to I for R, then they have no reason to exist as a business. If you buy services with the intent of selling them on without using money, John, then you are perverting the market.

      Best of luck to you in all your future endeavors, John. Every day must feel like something of an uphill climb for a man of your intellectual talents, and I admire you for just having the energy to keep going.


      • Ashana M March 6, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

        I would add that I pay everyone I pay any money to based on my subjective sense of what that service is worth to me. I don’t pay based on the wealth it generates: I pay the plumber to unclog the sink because I want the sink unclogged–not the money it makes me to have a functional sink. I pay my doctor to detect and treat my ailments because I prefer to be well–not based on the money I am able to make as a well person. It’s interesting that we expect services now that we don’t assign any monetary value to all. We expect information and entertainment for free. Perhaps this is because there is so much of it. The Atlantic wanted something for nothing, but increasingly we all do. Why? Are we now convinced the world owes us? I don’t leave myself out of this. This article, for example, with accompanying comments (also informative and entertaining) are also more or less free to me.


      • Rick Vach March 6, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

        Where is the “like” button? 🙂


      • memsaab March 6, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

        I love you.


      • janet March 6, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

        Thank you, Eoghan, for explaining that to John, who apparently has no clue how this all works, and, I’m guessing, not much of a heart. Hard-working journalists are increasingly taken for granted at a time when we need them all the more.


    • cajjac March 6, 2013 at 6:56 am #

      If we all repeat “Profit is the name of the game” enough does that make it true? I think not. However, if we keep repeating it enough it does make it possible for confusion and stupidity to reign supreme.


    • Dave March 6, 2013 at 7:32 am #

      You seem to have a bit of a reading comprehension issue, John. The Atlantic approached Nate – meaning that they believed his article had value and was worthy of publication (indeed, it had already been published in another form). But then the Atlantic proposed to pay exactly NOTHING for that work. Nate, along with every other right-thinking person on this blog, did the right thing by excoriating the Atlantic’s editor for wanting to get something for nothing.

      If you have something of value, you don’t allow it to be exploited without compensation. I think even you would believe that.


    • Angelo Benuzzi March 6, 2013 at 7:37 am #

      Your statement is nothing short of absurd.


    • David Streever March 6, 2013 at 8:19 am #

      That is bizarre, John.

      He never said anyone was obligated, but he said, if you want my content, you pay me.

      There is no other profession that operates the way you imagine writers should. Do I get to have a man build a house for me and then just not pay him? “Hey, buddy, this is EXPOSURE.”

      How is your position at all different from what I’ve just described? Because you don’t respect the work that a writer does?


      • See True Self March 6, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

        —There is no other profession that operates the way you imagine writers should. Do I get to have a man build a house for me and then just not pay him? “Hey, buddy, this is EXPOSURE.”—

        David, great example to illustrate the point.

        Unfortunately, nowadays, content is so immediate and accessible, writers struggle to receive compensation for their work. If publishers know they have a chance of getting someone to work for free, why would they go out of their way to pay…?

        As writers, we yearn to share our work and, especially in the beginning, our eagerness is our folly. Since writers want to put their work out there, publishers know they can take advantage…as any opportunist would.

        I agree with Nate; if he’s been writing as long as he has, it’s pretty insulting to be expected to write, for free. Maybe if the Editor disclosed, right away, that she expected him to write, for no charge, the issue wouldn’t cut so deep. Either way, when writers start, these are the terms many of us are subjected to.


    • John Tongue March 6, 2013 at 8:20 am #

      Maybe you are a little bit limited – intellectually considered? It’s more than a guess.


      • David Streever March 6, 2013 at 9:47 am #

        How does my point show me to be intellectually limited?

        What supporting evidence do you have for your snarky and nasty comment? If it is more than a guess, what actual material are you basing your opinion off of?

        What is the value in leaving a snarky insult in response to a comment, while not actually responding to the content and not explaining your position?


      • Estrogena March 6, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

        To David Streever: I think John Tongue’s comment was in response to John (“ridiculous” and “ROI”), whose tongue is a prominent feature in his pic. Look at the manner in which comments and replies are indented.


      • David Streever March 6, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

        that makes a lot more sense 😀 On my screen, it appeared indented directly beneath my post.


    • Lauren Lipton March 6, 2013 at 8:38 am #

      Dear John: “No one is obligated to pay you a single penny”? Really?

      I just spent most of the last month working on a 3,500-word story for a national magazine, for which I traveled a thousand miles and spent 5 days and 6 nights away from my family and day-to-day responsibilities. I interviewed dozens of people and did hours of background research. The story then took me about 15 hours to write. I will spend another 5 or so hours organizing and annotating my notes for the magazine’s fact-checking department and making any changes my editor requests. Once my story is finished, it will go into the printed magazine and the magazine’s website, where it will draw in readers, who will presumably look at the advertising that is sold against it. I love my job. This was a fantastic assignment. I also expect and deserve to be (and, thank goodness, in this case will be) paid handsomely for my time, my talent and my experience.

      How hard did you work last month, John? What do you do for a living? How much do you expect to make? What’s your ROI?


      • Cynthia Astle March 6, 2013 at 8:51 am #

        Dear Lauren: Good for you! And lucky for you. Lots of us in the field are just as talented and dedicated as you are, and we can’t get paid a penny. I’m happy for your success, but please don’t gloat over the rest of us. No matter how hard we try, the jobs aren’t there, and we’re suffering, especially us longtime journalists who should be able to command top dollar.


      • John March 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

        I’d hazard a guess that I make a lot more than the average writer.

        That’s because what I write generates revenue and profits.

        It’s not self-centered, ego-driven writing designed to glorify me as a writer. I get paid because I generate results and because sales skills are in high demand.

        Unfortunately, it seems as though “high quality writing” is not in demand anymore. Tough luck.

        Here’s a quick marketing tip. If you want to get paid more than your fellow journalists, you need to differentiate yourself. If the Atlantic can get similar articles from other journalists for free, then you can bet they’ll do it. But if you (or Nate) has a very compelling reason that the Atlantic should hire them, they will.

        Nate has described a marketing issue without knowing. Most of you (all of you?) SUCK as marketing. Time to learn.


      • Slothrop69 March 6, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

        “I get paid because I generate results and because sales skills are in high demand.” Lots of prostitutes, I guess, would argue that the rest of us are having sex wrong too. The “market” is not everyone’s god, yet.


    • squanky March 6, 2013 at 8:47 am #

      What do you do for a living, John? Are you happy to do it just for “exposure”? Is your paycheck dependent on how well the business does that week? What writers produce IS the product. Why should they give it away for free?


      • John March 6, 2013 at 9:12 am #

        Hi all.

        I’m a writer. I’m a copywriter. I make people buy stuff with the words I write. As far as the market is concerned, everything I write is about ROI.

        If I don’t get results, I don’t get paid.

        That’s why I find it so silly that writer’s insist on being paid because “they worked hard”. So what? I work hard. Lots of people work hard. You could spend an entire month working on a great piece, but if no one else thinks it’s a great piece, then you don’t deserve to get paid for it.

        This concept is what keeps so many people wallowing in mediocrity. They believe that they have a right to get paid.

        That’s not how the marketplace works. You don’t get paid based on how hard you worked, how many hours you put in, how much stress you endured, how tough you had it or how many obstacles you had to overcome.

        It’s about results.

        Take a look at a salesman. If he doesn’t make sales, he doesn’t get paid. It would be ridiculous if he walked into his boss’s office to say “But I worked so hard today. You owe me.” If everyone got paid on the basis of how hard they worked, the economy would crash, businesses would go bankrupt and writers like yourselves would be even worse off.

        Yes, you’re all right. Nate has a right to refuse to do the piece. I won’t argue with you there.

        But I will argue with you until the end of time over the issue of whether you should get paid based on how hard you work.

        If you want to get paid more, get better results.

        As a copywriter, I understand that it’s not about me. It’s about understanding the needs of the people I write for.

        Consider the issue from the publisher’s point of view.

        If it made good business sense to pay Nate, then it’s likely they would have done it.

        That they didn’t offer to pay Nate says to me that either the market is flooded with journalists (high supply equals low demand, and therefore, low prices), or that the needs of modern publishing businesses are no longer as reliant on the typical journalist as you all would like.

        If you don’t like that, tough luck. Either accept it, or be courageous and change it. It’s as simple as that. Whining about the issue in blog comments isn’t doing a thing to fix it.

        Want to see what happens when we stop paying people based on results and start paying based on what they need or demand or on how hard they worked?

        Read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.


      • Eoghan McLaughlin March 6, 2013 at 9:37 am #

        The basis of demanding pay for the use of your product by a publisher that professes to have 13 million readers (a number they certainly mention to advertisers when collecting revenue) is not based on “how hard you worked”, it’s the will of the market. Why should Nate give them his product for free any more than Rearden Metal should be distributed for free.

        It’s not like The Atlantic – a professional distributor of journalistic product – was offering to host the article and split the advertising income in proportion to the number of hits it received (and therefore advertising revenue it generated), which would be more akin to the point you are making.

        You make your living through a dependency on that same chain. The ads you write are only viewed – accidentally – by the people who visit sites like The Atlantic to read articles by established writers (not copywriters) like Nate. Your paycheck is a percentage of that same revenue.

        Also, as a fellow writer, I’m sure you’re aware that “Atlas Shrugged” is terrible writing. Good invective, but terrible writing.


      • TD March 6, 2013 at 9:47 am #

        John is correct here. Indeed, no one so far in this thread is actually “wrong,” although there does seem to be some misdirected energy.

        Professional writers in 2013 certainly have a right to feel aggrieved. But any gripes should be directed at the universe, not at any particular set of publications or editors. The fact that the Internet emerged on our clock isn’t anyone’s fault. It happened. It undermined the existing model for content. It changed supply and demand. It reshaped the nature of advertising.

        That’s how it is. The world doesn’t owe any of us a wage just because we choose to “work hard” on our journalism. Nobody was ever being paid for their journalism in the first place — they were being paid for bringing eyeballs to advertising. The digital age has thrown monkey wrenches into the works.

        John understands how a market functions. He’s just serving up hard truths here, for better or worse.


      • T. AKA Ricky Raw March 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

        John, as a fan of Atlas Shrugged myself, I totally don’t get your point. To repeat a point used by some other commenter, should Hank Rearden have been pleased to have his Rearden Metal used by a major corporation just because of the free advertising and not demanded payment for the work he already did? From what I know of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged, I highly doubt she’d stand for that herself with her own writing.


      • Lola-at-Large March 6, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

        For a copywriter, your grammar skills are atrocious. I presume you learned them from Ayn Rand?


      • Slothrop69 March 6, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

        I find John’s respond really puzzling, even from an Ayn Rand-ian perspective. Not the creepy and mean lack of empathy–that seems entirely consistent with every Rand-ian I’ve met. What is weird is the fact that Nate is doing exactly what a Rand-ian wants us all to do: negotiate one-on-one with an employer. He is a freelancer, exactly what free market warriors want us all to be; he isn’t (oh, God forbid) organizing a union or demanding a socialist state. The potential employer offered a ridiculous wage, and Kyle refused. What exactly is wrong with the exchange?


    • Cynthia Astle March 6, 2013 at 8:59 am #

      Hey, John … Blow it out your a$$. When you get right down to it, intellectual capital is the only kind of ROI there is, because even some poor sod down on the assembly line needs at least a few smarts to put widgets together. Furthermore, the critical thinking skills required for truly effective journalism ought to be commanding top dollar these days because they’re what’s needed to get a moribund economy and a morally bankrupt society moving again.

      Frankly, according to recent statistics, the last thing ANY worker, let alone journalists, needs to be doing is to generate more profits for corporations. Here’s the proof:


      • Lauren Lipton March 6, 2013 at 9:30 am #

        Hi, Cynthia. Just want you to know I’m definitely not gloating and hope I didn’t come across that way. I think we should ALL be paid fairly. Best of luck in your writing! -Lauren


      • Sheri McMahon March 6, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

        Huh, I would have thought that I buy the products John copyrights for (assuming I do) because the products have value to me. Turns out his notion is that the ad copy is where the value is.


    • Steve Barber March 6, 2013 at 9:08 am #

      Or, more succinctly, John: Why do you feel the Atlantic’s need to turn a profit is any better or worse than Nate Thayers? He’s greedy because he won’t work for free for a for-profit company? To me, this means the Atlantic is the greedy entity, not the writer.


    • Lauren Lipton March 6, 2013 at 9:35 am #

      John, I just clicked your link and see that your job as a writer is very different than mine and Nate Thayer’s. I would argue that even though we all use words to make a living, you can’t compare what you do to what we do. You are in advertising. We are journalists. Even you would agree, I hope, that there is value in reporting what is going on in the world. Also, no journalist will take you seriously if you reference “Atlas Shrugged.”


      • 65percent March 6, 2013 at 9:58 am #

        And not just journalists. Referencing “Atlas Shrugged” is a reliable indicator of both intellectual acumen and moral compass. It also happens to be *really* badly written.


      • Mary O'Neill March 6, 2013 at 10:27 am #

        I would also argue that as a result of Nate’s work the Atlantic wanted to run it. He should get paid for that result.


      • Barbara March 6, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

        Lauren, and John,
        Lauren, your post about being a successful journalist was inspiring (not gloating, as someone called it). Thank you!
        John, I knew you were a Rand fan the minute you posted that mediocre-pseudo-philosophical-hackery. Did you know that professional philosophers laugh at the mention of Rand´s name? It´s true. As do writers, and readers, of literature.


    • David Lynch (@DGL49) March 6, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      If a magazine is selling copy that includes your story then, yes, they are obligated to pay you for it.


    • Cecelia March 6, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

      Did you read the post? The author does not want to get “paid more.” He wants to get paid.


    • Stephen March 6, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

      John, I have a feeling you’re just trolling and aren’t at all serious.


    • Annabelle March 6, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

      Eh? I thought the way capitalism worked was that someone produced something and somebody bought it. Or they didn’t buy in, in which case the producer went out of business. But I’m scratching my head to find a model where a producer works for free to create a product for someone else to sell.


      • John March 6, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

        That’s true. If you read my comment above, you’ll see that I agree.

        But all this whining? You all sound like a bunch of whining teenagers. Don’t like something? Do something about it instead of complaining about it.

        If publishers aren’t paying like they used to, there is a reason.

        If they go out of business, that’s their problem.

        They shouldn’t pay you just because you want to get paid. They can make you an offer. You have the right to refuse. If you refuse, they may collapse, or they may succeed. They they continue to be profitable without paying writers, and that strategy works for them, well, GOOD FOR THEM. But there is no point in complaining about it.


      • Gary Williams March 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

        The model your looking for is called “slavery”.


    • simeon March 6, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

      John.. I strongly disagree with your negative comment above. Of course an educated, intelligent, original piece of writing deserves to be paid for. Would you expect your doctor or nurse to work for free, or for experience, or it might be “good for your profile”. A socialist society might have far more interesting and quality journalism. Your money is the measure of all things has created the current desperate situation in most of the world.


      • John March 6, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

        What if we have more quality pieces of writing than we have money to pay for?

        Suppose the total amount of quality pieces of writing amounts to $10,000.

        If we only have $5,000 to spend on writing, where do you suppose the other $5,000 comes from?

        It HAS to come from somewhere. This basic idea is one reason why economies crash.

        In a socialistic society, the media becomes a medium for those in power to control the people. Far more interesting journalism? I think not.


    • Dan March 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

      “No one is obligated to pay you a single penny.”

      They are if they use our work, John. The Atlantic tried to disregard that obligation and was correctly told to take a hike. If a company asked you for unpaid work, you’d laugh in their face–rightfully so, and not because you’re better than us. (You’re not.)

      Also, your fetish of ROI has a flip side: By your logic, an employee who generates productive work without getting paid generates infinite ROI, making them more valuable than you or anyone else who gets paid for their work. They won’t be able to feed or shelter themselves, but they will generate infinite ROI…and this, in your view, should be our aim.

      As someone who purports to know how business works, you should understand the problem with this. But we both know your affected outrage is less about criticizing writers’ right to make a living and more about flogging your own self-congratulatory conceit–which, believe me, isn’t impressive.


      • John March 6, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

        If any of you take the time to actually read my comment, you’ll see that I agree with you that we should get paid for our work. No arguments there.

        But you’re all whining about it like 6 year olds. Nate refused. End of story. The publisher didn’t force him to do anything. It simply offered him the opportunity.

        The publisher is NOT obligated to pay him just because you all think he should get paid. By the same token, Nate is NOT obligated to do the job.

        That sums the issue up.

        If you have a problem with the “state of journalism”, you’d be better served by actually creating solutions, not whining about it on some blog.

        My grammar IS atrocious. I’ll take that as a compliment. That’s because I’m a copywriter. My job is to make people understand stuff. It’s not to come across as a lofty, well-trained, uses-good-grammar writer.

        My goal when writing anything is to have the reader or listener understand me. If I need to use colloquialisms and bad grammar to accomplish that goal, I will (and I’m proud of it). I’m not attached to my writing. You can knock me all you want. I don’t care. Why? I get results. That’s what I care about.

        As for Rand’s book, it sounds like you all have missed the point. Also, the quality of her writing (or lack) has nothing no bearing on the efficacy of her ideas.


      • John March 6, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

        I’m 100% serious.

        I didn’t used to think like this. But I do now.


      • John March 6, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

        Let the company try to get productive work from someone without paying them.

        Sooner or later, the person is either going to quit or die (since he can’t eat). When that happens, the ROI disappears. It’s an unsustainable practice.

        Therefore, based on good, long-term business sense, the company pays it’s employees.


      • Sheri McMahon March 6, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

        John’s notion is that it’s ok to be a looter if you can get away with it.


      • Alan Webb March 6, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

        “As for Rand’s book, it sounds like you all have missed the point. Also, the quality of her writing (or lack) has nothing no bearing on the efficacy of her ideas.”

        Most people with a reasonable amount of intelligence and discernment get over Ayn Rand by the time they are in their twenties.
        Cheap ideas appealing to teen age romanticists. Not a shred of solid
        thinking, philosophically lame … and (as an award winning and highly plaid copywriter) I can say that quality of writing equals quality of thinking.


      • Barbara March 6, 2013 at 11:35 pm #

        True, Dan.
        John, your grammar is not bad in a way that is effective, clever, or even intentional, in a way that good writers sometimes effectively, cleverly, and intentionally write.
        No, Rand´s mediocre writing doesn´t make her mediocre ideas bad. They do however make the mediocre ideas funny. Like flatulence and other explosions of stinking hot air tend to be.


      • Barbara March 6, 2013 at 11:54 pm #

        In addition, John, being exploited or feeling like someone is attempting to exploit your labor for their own profit over your well-being, or, discovering that someone has already exploited your labor for their profit, is subject to complaint.

        We get to try to create the kind of society we want to live in. That is why we are having this discussion. Humans and their labor, their ideas, their creative work are not merely commodities. That is one way to look at them that can sometimes be useful, but it is not universal.

        If it is not universal, that means it is not the way we must think of our labor or contributions. If we find it constructive, for our own disclosed or undisclosed purposes, we complain. For example, if we note a trend that consists of us feeling like our labor or contributions are being degraded or exploited.

        That is how we find solutions to change said degradation or exploitation. Solutions that don´t always include your neo-nazi-randian-ubermensch approach. Indeed, the constructions you are using are feeble. The world is not parsed into the dichotomy of dark-age-Stalinist socialism vs cut-throat-free-market capitalism (from whence Rand came and went, by the way).

        There is this little thing called U.S. history, i.e., The Gilded Age, when the so-called-complainers wrote masterworks, namely, Upton Sinclair with The Jungle.


      • John March 7, 2013 at 12:45 am #

        I always find it interesting that when people are confronted with an idea they disagree with, they resort to personal attacks rather than refuting the actual idea.

        I don’t give 2 hoots what you all think about my writing.

        Introducing Rand’s book was a distraction.

        The problem with everyone’s thinking here is that the publishing industry owes you something. They don’t. Just like you have right to get paid for the work you do (if it produces the results that the publishing industry wants), the publishing industry has the right to offer you money or exposure as they please.

        You’re not obliged to accept their offers. Nor are they obliged to offer you money just because you demand it.

        Of course, you can always refuse their offers of exposure.

        Until you all get over this idea of being “owed something” simply because you took the time to produce something, you will all struggle.

        Until you take the time to produce something that the market actually wants (NOT what you think it wants), you’re going to run into this problem over and over again.

        If I was the editor of the Atlantic and I had access to good quality writing for cheap (or free), then of course I’ll take it over paying for the equivalent. That’s how a free market works.

        Journalists have two options –

        1) Stop complaining, or

        2) Do something about it. Instead of whining, strive to create content that is better than what the publishing companies can get for free. That’s when you’ll get paid. Not a second sooner.

        It’s really a question of evolution. Those who adapt will thrive in the “new” economy. Those (many of them in these comments) who resent progress and demand that nothing changes, will at most, survive.


      • jane March 7, 2013 at 1:00 am #

        Ah, John, John – this has become an exercise in semantics for you, hasn’t it?
        So a journo HAS written something a publisher wants and HAS taken the option of declining an offer of zero recompense; what more do you want?
        Would you be happy if all the journos in the world followed your lead and took up copywriting?
        OK so you’ve found a nice niche that fewer people are interested in and demands a different set of skills, but I don’t know why that makes you so disdainful of those who chose to write features or news.
        And if you don’t like the idea of blogging about something you find ridiculous, then just don’t read it.
        But I’m guessing your in need of some creative stimulation after writing about all that washing powder, so a good online stoush fill the gap, right?
        Or is this inverted snobbery?


      • John March 7, 2013 at 2:01 am #

        I’m here because this I find this subject fascinating.

        Discussing my ideas and opinions with others helps me refine them. I like being challenged. It helps me weed out inaccurate ideas and replace them with accurate ones.

        Snobbery? HA! Me a snob? If there’s one lesson I’ve learned in this discussion, it’s that 99% of journalists are stuck up writing snobs who don’t understand marketing or supply and demand, and have a penchant for critizing the writing of anyone who disagrees with them.

        Certainly not the most sophisticated bunch.

        If the Atlantic thought it worth paying Nate for his writing, they would. But alas, they don’t. Boo hoo. Now let’s all cry about it. That’s what you all sound like. A whole lot of bitching and moaning about how this shouldn’t be happening.

        Well, guess what? It is. That’s how the marketplace works. It isn’t swayed by opinions but by wallets.

        Arguing about how the marketplace works is like arguing with a rock. That’s what you all are doing. Arguing with a rock. It’s a pity party.

        “Let’s all pity Nate and feel sorry for ourselves.”

        “Let’s sit in the corner and complain about how unjust the world is.”

        “Oh the sorry state of journalism.”

        You guys should listen to yourselves sometime.

        As for my investment in this discussion, like I said, I get to refine my ideas (plus be entertained like nothing else).


      • Tanja Cilia March 7, 2013 at 3:43 am #

        You have the wrong end of the stick. First, they dangled the bait of exposure-to-new-demographic. Then, when the writer appeared interested, they switched to the but-we-can’t-pay-you mode. Before you accuse me for being mercenary… please be informed that I do write for free when I want to; not for exposure, but because I give my work as a donation to a cause in which I believe.


    • fred fink March 6, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

      You may well think that journalists are ridiculous, just as I may well think that you are an idiot.


      • Barbara March 6, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

        And the church said, “Amen”.


    • FATravelWriter March 7, 2013 at 7:00 am #

      John also seems to misunderstand the difference between the job of a journalist and that a magazine/paper/content publisher.

      Using this example: it is The Atlantic’s job to determine what kind of writing will generate profit. THAT is not the freelancer’s job to do for The Atlantic, which very carefully and protectively selects and shapes what writing makes its brand, what IT thinks will generate $$. Then they seek that kind of writing – as it did from Nate here. Nate’s job is to write what they asked him to write – not to determine whether or not or how much revenue it will generate for them.

      What you’re suggesting is akin to saying that a clothing store should not have to purchase the clothes it sells. It should just get the money from selling them, and the people that designed and manufactured the most popular items at their own cost…might get paid some flat fee. Ridiculous.


      • Lauren Lipton March 7, 2013 at 8:55 am #

        Yes, I agree. This is the part John doesn’t get. I don’t “feel that I am owed something” because I “work hard.” I am quite literally owed something for the product I manufacture, which my employer uses to sell magazines and earn advertising revenues. Each product I manufacture is a hand-crafted one-off that requires hours of my time, a fair amount of knowledge of a wide variety of topics, physical travel, and numerous other intangible skills–including wit, an ear for a good anecdote, and the ability to sweet-talk information out of recalcitrant sources (not to mention track down those sources in the first place). That’s what we journalists are paid for. And we earn every penny.


    • Jean March 7, 2013 at 10:28 am #

      Oh but John, for all his John-ness, has it right. Money for articles comes from income. Part of all income must be directed to profits, part to overhead. Profits and overheads in this industry are what they are; income is not being siphoned off unfairly to either. All the Atlantic’s emails are guilty of is a certain misdirection or rudeness, the kind that happens almost hourly in most companies. Any argument in favour of higher payments that does not take in this economic reality–and an eloquent yet unsubstantiated denial of this economic reality is still an unsubstantiated denial–probably hurts more than it helps, overall.


    • jaym9 March 7, 2013 at 10:47 am #

      John, your reasoning is deeply flawed. That you’d be mentioning Rand at some point is unsurprising, as your passion drives you to apply a(n antiquated) philosophy to a real world situation which doesn’t truly apply.

      One problem is that Olga’s proposition doesn’t allow Nate to be compensated for his ROI. As others point out, the offer requires no investment on the publisher’s part. But more important, no return either. Had Olga started differently, your argument might have some traction. For example, “We don’t often reach outside our own team of writers, but we are intrigued. And while we can’t offer payment upfront, for an untested product, we can offer compensation should the article generate traffic on the site.” You’ve assumed his work is worthless.

      What it looks like to me is that Olga was trying to leverage all tools available to her, to maximize her impact in her new role. (I’ve read elsewhere she was one week into her job.) She’s revealed her own inexperience by offering exposure to a seasoned journalist – something normally reserved for neophytes. In short, she didn’t know who Nate Thayer is. (Oops!)

      Just like your job writing email auto-responses, website visits for an online article could actually be measured down to each individual visit. This situation is further distinguished as being unlike the Randian proposition you espouse, especially because it’s unlike most jobs, which can’t quantify ROI very precisely to the individual employee.

      What’s sad is that you’ve violated the most basic Randian economics, in not just using the principle to try and defend not paying a worker for his contribution to profit, but worse, to support incompetent management. Very unRandian indeed.


    • Gary Williams March 7, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

      And there we have it, folks….the mush that’s left of the American mind after being subjected to a half-century of relentless cold-war propaganda deliberately fashioned to confuse or conflate “free markets” (no such thing now, or in the past, nor will there ever be) with freedom itself. Behold the mindset that is responsible for America becoming the last developed nation in the world without a socialized healthcare system. Here is the mind that is willing to jeopardize the life of one’s own children; who is willing to forfeit the roof over his own head, and the car he drives to work because of a belief that conflates profits with patriotic duty.
      “Sure, Americans may be dying in their thousands every year due their inability to pay for a healthcare services, but at least they die patriotically! Sure Americans pay far more for every healthcare dollar spent than Canadians, Brits, Germans, Italians, French, Spanish, Portuguese, etc. etc. do. But those are all communist countries, right?”

      Behold ‘an idiot at home’.


    • Scout March 7, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

      In a milder way than you, I agree. If there’s a demand for your work, you’ll get paid for it. If supply exceeds demand, you won’t. That’s the economy in which we live.

      If you’re able to make a free-lance life work, good for you. You get freedom from office drudgery, wage slavery, and all that.

      But it seems to me that far too many people would like to be a writer, actor, model, etc., than a manual laborer, servant, office worker or (worse!) a professional who needs to study for 8+ years to learn their trade (like a doctor).

      My point? If you’re not already rich, and are pursuing your dream life, don’t complain if it doesn’t come easy. Dreams only come easy to wealthy.


    • rlloydmyers March 9, 2013 at 6:26 am #

      @John: Your post is simply ridiculous. Perhaps you shouldn’t drink before posting at online forums. Thank you for trolling and enjoy your particular brand of sententious misery.


      • nick March 9, 2013 at 8:00 am #

        I don’t think this practice of dismissing contrary opinion or controversial opinion as ‘trolling’ is really intelligent or helpful. If everyone commenting here all said the same thing it would not be a discussion. Is it trolling to go onto a racist website and say ‘you’re all idiots’? Or is it a valuable reminder that not everyone supports their far right policies? John’s a bit brutal, but he’s only offering an alternative view.


  26. The Ed March 6, 2013 at 2:47 am #

    Reblogged this on The Sharp Single and commented:
    I wish this was the start of a slippery slope. Nearer the bottom of it, sadly


  27. dsdphoto March 6, 2013 at 3:19 am #

    I really wish I was surprised by this, but as a former Travel Writer & Photographer in the early 2000’s, and a photojournalist up until 2008, it’s basically the state of the industry now. First it was website that wouldn’t pay. Then magazines got killed by the web, so they decided THEY wouldn’t pay, since they were now competing in the rush to the bottom. Then newspapers wouldn’t pay, before they died altogether. The reason professional journalism is dead in this country is because nobody will hire or pay for professionals anymore – so we get what we pay for. Hacks, with no ethics or standards. Bloggers – some good, many iffy, some horrendous, with equally low or no standards or ethics, if they even care about such things. “Entertainment” shows that pass as journalism, like you get on Fox or MSNBC or the like, where the columnists and commentators have well known biases and angles, and you don’t get anything resembling unbiased, fact-based news. A few people still do it at the local level, but beyond that? Forget it.

    Unfortunately Nate, you’re right. Journalism IS dead. Killed because, unfortunately, quality journalism doesn’t make money, and in the corporate world, nobody cares about the public good anymore. If it’s not profitable it’s not worth doing.


    • Cynthia Astle March 6, 2013 at 8:47 am #

      You’re spot-on, DSDPhoto, but the web only delivered the coup de grace. Corporations since the early 80s owned journalism properties to make money. I worked for three newspapers where the owners sold out and the journalism immediately plummeted as staffs were stripped in order to increase profit. Too bad we journalists couldn’t turn the same scrutiny on our owners that we’d given to local governments etc. Many of us saw it coming but were still powerless to stop it. You’re right — money rules, now more blatantly than ever.


  28. Bob Owen March 6, 2013 at 3:27 am #

    Great piece. Pretty much sums up the state of professional photography as well. It’s essential to stop this slide into free work to main high standards of journalism


  29. youraffinity March 6, 2013 at 3:45 am #

    Words are easy for true writers. It’s like verbal diarrhea. You have to show it as intimate, then the money pours in.


    • Ted March 6, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

      What? Good writing is hard even for the greats and many of them have written about it. Hemingway, Joyce etc.


      • Darr247 March 7, 2013 at 11:47 am #

        No, it’s easy; the hard part is pithiness.


  30. mrijnhart March 6, 2013 at 4:58 am #

    Being New on the Blog community. I definitely think the future of freelance journalists is in this media


  31. Judge Drager Victim March 6, 2013 at 6:05 am #

    Hi. That was unbelievable, the exchange from the Atlantic, thanks for posting it. I saw a bunch of bloggers liked this, so I wanted to put a story out their about nyc court corruption specifically focusing on Judge Laura Drager. Ths petition at change.org links to a lot of articles and information. I know Elena Sassower of the Center for Judicial Accountability is on these crimes, and the Ethicsgate in midFebruary where Cuomo was asked to dismantle the corrupt ethic overseers has received little press. This is a huge open secret, the crimes being committed daily in Laura Drager’s courtroom. I and my nine year old are one of her hundreds of victims, her typical pattern – impoverishing the nonmonied spouse, failing to enforce her own court orders, eviction, etc. My ex is one of the deadbeats from the Milberg Weiss scandal. Thanks.


  32. make money online March 6, 2013 at 6:26 am #




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    […] j’aimerais répondre à cet article traitant de pigistes et qui nous appelle à refuser des contrats non-payants (je ne réagis pas à l’article en soi, mais à ce qu’on en conclut): sans mes vidéos […]


  7. Atlantic supposedly doesn’t pay online freelancers - March 5, 2013

    […] Nate Thayer generated some buzz Tuesday by publishing an exchange he had with an editor at The Atlantic. The editor reportedly wanted to run a version of a story […]


  8. Writing for Free? « Charles Gray's blog of writing - March 5, 2013

    […] Nate Thayer has a rather unnerving story to tell about his experiences with the Atlantic. […]


  9. Everyone Knows Print Is Dead. Which Is Why NSFWCORP Is Launching A Print Edition | Paul @ NSFWCORP - March 5, 2013

    […] 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. […]


  10. Everyone Knows Print Is Dead. Which Is Why NSFWCORP Is Launching A Print Edition | PandoDaily - March 5, 2013

    […] 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. […]


  11. A Day in the Life of a Freelancer (and follow up) (via @nate_thayer) | Literarium – The Blog - March 5, 2013

    […] a conversation Nate Thayer had with The Atlantic newspaper, requesting a reprinted (non-fiction) story from a […]


  12. Journalism’s problems shouldn’t extend to etiquette | WordsByNowak - March 6, 2013

    […] Tuesday, a blog post from journalist Nate Thayer titled “A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist – […]


  13. Pay the writer! | a c h t m i l l i a r d e n . c o m - March 6, 2013

    […] guy ranting ist Harlan Ellison. The occasion to have him remind us of some fundamentals is this, which really broke my heart. Et tu, The Atlantic? I think it’s one thing to talk about […]


  14. 5 Lesetipps für den 6. März - Netzpiloten.de - March 6, 2013

    […] & GELD 1 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 […]


  15. ולווט אנדרגראונד - בלוג ביקורת התקשורת של דבורית שרגל » צחוק מהעבודה‏ - March 6, 2013

    […] מיומנו של עיתונאי פרילנסר אמריקאי. […]


  16. A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist—2013 | The Storyteller Project - March 6, 2013

    […] A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist—2013. […]


  17. Da Tech Guy's Blog » Blog Archive » CPAC 2013: Donald Trump but not Pam Geller? - March 6, 2013

    […] no Nate Thayer and you likely won’t find me in Iraq any­time soon but like him I’m try­ing to eek out a liv­ing writ­ing and on the radio. If you think I’m […]


  18. The blog of David Brake academic, consultant & journalist - March 6, 2013

    […] speed most online content will be written by staff writers. He was writing about Nate Thayer who complained recently about being asked to write for a major magazine for free (for the exposure). The key […]


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