A Peak In the Public Mailbox: Debate on state of journalism runs from supportive to, well, very not–with a dash of the amusing and odd.

14 Apr

A Peak Into the Public Mailbox: Debate on state of journalism runs from very supportive to, well, very not–with an entertaining dash of the amusing and odd.

Maybe the North Korean Ministry of Agitation and Propaganda are on to Something

By Nate Thayer

April 13, 2013

In the last few weeks I can’t help but to have the thought that this mass adulation of free speech, critical thinking, debate-the-issues-important-to-the-common-good-in- the-public-square shtick, might be a bit over-hyped.

I confess to fleeting feelings of sympathy for the approach taken by, say, the authorities of North Korea, whose citizens enjoy the warm serenity protected in the womb of The Mother Party, where the destabilizing consequences to the public order of expressing an opinion have been cleverly addressed by not allowing the Proletariat to say, well, just about anything. The masses are not burdened with such tangential tasks and can just concentrate on basking in the bounty of opportunity and human dignity provided for them by those in their halls of power.

Some elements of the entrenched Free Press would appear to better serve the interests of society under the benevolent supervision and guidance of the Ministry of Agitation and Propaganda.

But that sentiment I enjoy only in my fleeting twisted Walter Mitty moments.

There is nothing like a healthy, vigorous discussion on issues of merit and import to the common good. Even the collateral unpleasantness, when the bonehead and junior high school set chimes in, is well worth the price of admission to live where, when people have something to say, they can and do.

But at least in the Worker’s Paradise, there are rarely the tedious distractions that undermine meeting production quotas (a side demerit which has been true in my case in recent weeks). And, protected by the bosom of the Great Leader, there is none of the inevitable ruckus kicked up by a contrarian peasant disputing the visionary wisdom of  the “Father of the Neighbor’s Children”, “Bright Sun of the 21st Century”, and the “Great Man, Who Descended From Heaven.”

Part of the arrangement is everyone is prohibited from excersizing their opinions on just about anything to keep everything running smoothly.

The other official titles of the sequentially incumbent Kim Family Boys include: “Dear Leader, who is a perfect incarnation of the appearance that a leader should have”; “Great Leader”; “Father of the People”; “Sun of the Communist Future”; “Shining Star of Paektu Mountain”; “Guiding Sun Ray”; “Guarantee of the Fatherland’s Unification”; “Symbol of the Fatherland’s Unification”; “Fate of the Nation”; “Beloved Father”; “Great Leader of our Party and of our Nation”; “Great General”; “Beloved and Respected General”; “Ever-Victorious, Iron-Willed Commander”; “Sun of Socialism”; “Sun of the Nation”; ”The Great Sun of Life”; “Great Sun of The Nation”; “Father of the Neighbor’s Children”; “World Leader of The 21st Century”; “Peerless Leader”; “Bright Sun of the 21st Century”; “Great Sun of the 21st Century”; “Leader of the 21st Century”; “Amazing politician”; “Great Man, Who Descended From Heaven”; “Glorious General, Who Descended From Heaven”; “Supreme Leader of the Nation”; “Bright Sun of Juche”; “Leader of the Party and the People”; Great Marshal”; “Invincible and Ever-triumphant General”; “Dear Father”; “Guiding Star of the 21st Century”; “Great Man, Who Is a Man of Deeds”; “Great Defender: “Savior”; “Mastermind of the Revolution”;

And my personal favorite: “Highest Incarnation of the Revolutionary Comradely Love.”

There have been a few moments, in recent weeks, when I could have used a little of that. And an equal number of moments when I was grateful to be on the receiving end.

And regardless of whether they have been darts or laurels, the entertainment value has proved more than adequate, and life would have been strikingly more mundane and uninteresting otherwise.

Here is a small sampling of the range of public comments over the few days (via my living room for reasons that remain entirely unclear to me) pertaining to the issue of writers being compensated with cash money by the people who sell for profit the product we produce—words (or photographs, or art, or music and son etc etc).

While most who have thrown in their two cents (which was, not incidentally, more than I was offered by the Atlantic) have been alarmingly firm in their conclusions, and all have been from people who I don’t know, have never met, and never spoken with. For many I hope that status will change, and others, in all candor, I am inclined to relegate to the undecided category.

I will start with the grouchy stuff:

“Hope Nate Thayer learns how to monetize a blog and his 31 followers because nobody will ever ask him to write again.”–Nicholas Jackson @nbj914 Digital director of Pacific Standard. Formerly w/ The Atlantic, Outside, Slate, Atlas Obscura. IALJS officer. IMSA & NU/Medill alum. Tweeting all things media.

“Nate-thayer-is-plagiarist.html …”–T.J. Ortenzi @tjortenzi @WashingtonPost senior social media producer. Hershey native, pug owner, occasional runner. http://wapo.st/aItzLT  11 Apr      

“Was anyone in doubt about Nate Thayer’s temperament after he publicly fucked over a editor over a money spat?”–Justin Miller, Editor at New York magazine, former staff journalist at Atlantic Magazine ‏@justinjm1 11 Apr Justin Miller http://nymag.com  @NYMag editor. @TheAtlantic alumnus. Work in progress.

“So @nate_thayer, who hates it when sites re-pub his work for free, does the same thing on his blog: https://natethayer.wordpress.com “Shooters Have Power: Freelance Photographers organize Over Fair Pay “–Sara Morrison @SaraMorrison “Assistant editor Columbia Journalism Review, Friday night writer @TheAtlanticWire. Mouthy broad often. . saramorrison[at]http://gmail.com “

“If @nate_thayer is such a great & valuable journalist, why didn’t he seek official @TheAtlantic comment before publishing editor’s emails?”— Max Fisher Washington Post chief Foreign Policy blogger; former Staff Writer The Atlantic 8:02 PM Mar 5th Twitter

“That @nate_thayer piece bears an uncanny resemblance to a 2006 San Diego Union-Tribune story. Sources, anecdotes, etc.”—Max Fischer Mar 5th

 “This article about Nate Thayer’s journalistic sloppiness is pretty damning. http://t.co/v6YIUnnlfZ”–Matt Schiavenza @MattSchiavenza, editor the China Channel @TheAtlantic @TheAtlanticCHN Washington, DC · theatlantic.com/china/

“Sensible @mattyglesias blog post on the idiotic @nate_thayer controversy”—Matt Schiavenza @TheAtlantic

“Minor details RT@jeremyduns: Nate Thayer is a plagiarist”-Matt Yglesias @mattyglesias Slate Economics Blogger Washington, http://www.matthewyglesias.net

“It’s simply that our business model isn’t suitable for all types of contributors- which is fine! You seem to think that the Thayer incident was common, but in fact it was quite exceptional.”–Matt Schiavenza @TheAtlantic

“Rather than complain about us, why not direct your ire to people who write, willingly, for free? They’re the ones who have undermined the freelance journalism market, not magazines”Matt Schiavenza @TheAtlantic

“Man, this Nate Thayer thing is getting really post-modern”–Jeffrey Goldberg @JeffreyGoldberg National Correspondent, The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/jeffrey-goldberg

Guy who invoked 13th Amendment when asked to write for free continues to say really rational things… HT @jaredbkeller”—Mark Berman @themarkberman , Washington Post Staff correspondent , “also produces videos, discussions and other projects, manages multiple social media channels and regularly contributes to or works with other departments and sections” @washingtonpost, http://themarkberman.com”

Mr. Berman was quite prolific:

“Also, I know he’s super busy comparing his life to that of a slave, but has Nate Thayer ever responded to this? http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/03/nate-thayer-atlantic-charged-with-plagiarism.html …”–Mark Berman ‏Washington Post @themarkberman 11 April

“He made a 13th Amendment reference last time people were paying attention to him, too: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/03/nate-thayer-vs-the-atlantic-writing-for-free.html …”–Mark Berman ‏@themarkberman Washington Post 11 Apr

“Nate Thayer seems like he’d react to his cable being out by complaining to the company, publishing the emails and comparing it to slavery”–Mark Berman ‏@themarkberman Washington Post11 Apr

“Nate Thayer should take an assignment. He seems to have a lot of time on his hands to (freely) complain about not working for free.”–Odd Hack ‏@Odd_Hack 11 Apr

“What is with this guy? … We get it. You won’t work for free! Shut up!”–Odd Hack ‏@Odd_Hack 11 Apr

“This dick is way out of bounds.”Walter Hickey ‏@WaltHickey 11 Apr

So @nate_thayer, who hates it when sites re-pub his work for free, does the same thing on his blog: https://natethayer.wordpress.com “Shooters Have Power: Freelance Photographers organize Over Fair Pay”--Sara Morrison @SaraMorrison, Assistant Editor Columbia Journalism Review, writer TheAtlanticWire saramorrison[at]http://gmail.com http://about.me/saramorrison

A few people got a bit worked up over the “House Negro” allusion:

“Straw man/hyperbole much? Nate Thayer compares blogging for free at HuffPo to slavery:”–Mathew Ingram @mathewi, senior writer at GigaOm, former columnist with the Globe and Mail and co-founder of the mesh conference in Toronto.

“As a general life lesson never use the phrase “house negro” to describe literally anything that is not actual slavery …”--Jon Eiseman ‏@Jon_Eiseman 11 Apr

“In which Nate Thayer completely misrepresents American slavery in a spat with HuffPo:”–Jarrod Dicker @jarroddicker Director of social, content & mobile ad products @Time_Inc. Former head of social marketing @HuffingtonPost. I tweet about advertising, but mostly PHISH. http://about.me/jarroddicker

“RT @mathewi straw man/hyperbole much? Nate Thayer compares blogging for free at HuffPo to slavery…via @jaredbkeller”–Jarrod Dicker ‏@jarroddicker 11 Apr

“In which Nate Thayer completely misrepresents American slavery in a spat with HuffPo (via @jaredbkeller)”Matt Ford ‏@HemlockMartinis 11 Apr

“You have crossed the line. To equate the practice of Huff Post of not paying their bloggers to antebellum slavery is one of the most asinine and intellectuality bankrupt comments I have heard. Then you invoked the civil war, the emancipation proclamation, and the 13th amendment to the Constitution as a part of your argument. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! I’m sorry the big bad wolf Huff Post won’t pay you for your work or other bloggers. Last I check Huff Post is not dishing out 30 lashes or selling your children and/or wife. FIND SOMEONE THAT WILL PAY YOU! You are FREE to do so! That is a far cry from being uprooted from your home, forced to march for miles tied together by the neck then chained together in a slave ship under horrific conditions. If you were lucky to survive, you were then subjugated and dehumanized. And this went on for 246 years with another 100 years of de facto slavery! How many years has Huff Post been around? Where was a blog in the 1700’s when a brother needed one? So I am sorry, you lost me when you tried to channel your internal Quentin Tarantino with your house slave, field slave diatribe. Look if you think Huff Post is undermining journalism and destroying the journalism business model, say that. Otherwise find a more worthy analogy to make your point without the sophomoric hyperbole. Sorry Nate, in 2013, you are not a slave, field or house. You can do as you please, simply put you are FREE! Your blog kinda proves that in case you were wondering. Free to say what you want, free to work for anyone that employs you or for yourself and even refuse to work for those that don’t pay you. To use the slave analogy shows that you are either; A. don’t have a basic understanding of history, B. are a narcissist looking to show how cool you are by using a narrative that diminishes the significance of a painful time in history C. stepped in it when trying to make a point. I believe it is C. Clean your shoe and think next time, you are free to do that to—David Walker commenting on my blog post “Robot Sex Poll Reveals How I Got Invited–Then Uninvited–As Guest on Huffington Post Live TV Show”

This next fellow I am guessing is British with his stealth, perfected by centuries of honing and tweaking,  combo of politeness and derision, where you don’t realize you have just been slapped upside the head until some time later in the week:

“Always interesting to get insights on the inner workings of modern media companies, and congrats of getting this issue heard around the world, but I am far from convinced by the use of ‘house negro’ here. Was it intended as a self-mocking use of an ostensibly attention gathering headline which has little to do with the story? (If so, it’s still a little cheap, no?)”—Mark Turner April 11, 2013 at 5:14 am

“Writing for free = slavery, apparently…”–Jared Keller ‏@jaredbkeller 11 Apr

WTF: “You Are Lucky to be Our “House Negro” or You’d be Picking Cotton in the Fields Like the Rest of the Slaves” …”–Jared Keller ‏@jaredbkeller 11 Apr

“Straw man/hyperbole much? Nate Thayer compares blogging for free at HuffPo to slavery”– Mathew Ingram ‏@mathewi 11 Apr

“RT For a moment I was worried about over reach…@jaredbkeller: Writing for free = slavery, apparently”–Stephen Grange ‏@maricopacourt 11 Apr


“I love Nate Thayer”jennifer brough ‏@jrbrough  

“Dude is like the Wikileaks of the freelance writing world. Right on, Nate Thayer!”—comment on Twitter

“THIS GUY IS MY HERO! HERO TO ALL WRITERS! Nate Thayer Disinvited from HuffPo TV Appearance ”–Diane Dimond ‏@DiDimond, Lawyer, Legal Reporter, Former Court TV Chief Correspondent. (I sorta feel like I know her cause I watched hundreds of hours of her covering the O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson trials).

“Nate Thayer strikes again!”–Denise Kersten Wills ‏@denisewills, Senior editor at Washingtonian Magazine. DC

“Nothing short of brilliant. You deserve a Pulitzer”–Warren Swil April 12, 2013 at 12:08 pm

“@nate_thayer rocks! …” –Wendy Helfenbaum ‏@WendyHelfenbaum Author of 13 non-fiction books, fiction, poetry. Freelance writer/editor/ghostwriter/copywriter/publishing consultant who provides writing/editing/critiques.

“Tell it, Nate! Nate Thayer Disinvited from HuffPo TV Appearance.”–MelanieVotaw @melanievotaw

“Is there going to be anyone left who is willing to work with or around this man? I will!”–Eileen Smith

“Um, what did they think he was going to say? ”–Caroline Tiger ‏@carolinetiger

I can’t get past: “Great writer that is smart, informative, and engaging…”Susan Schindehette , Writer

“Nate Thayer just became another one of my personal heroes.”–Sol , April 12, 2013

“#NateThayer is my freelance hero.”-Amber Nasrulla ‏@AmberNasrulla

“THIS GUY IS MY HERO! HERO TO ALL WRITERS!” Jeffrey Evan Gold, Attorney / TV legal analyst for Fox News, CNN Headline News, Tru-TV, The Comcast Network

I’d like to buy the below fellow a drink for being simply witty. It isn’t clear what he really thinks. I suspect he is a politician or a lawyer:

“‏@Robert BLevine <<<– Team Nate Thayer. (He could be nicer, but so could I.)”Author Robert B Levine

But he couldn’t resist the following:

“Nate Thayer has horrible taste in headlines. No idea what he’s like. My point is, he’s right.”—“ Author Robert B Levine ‏@RobertBLevine

“@nate_thayer A hero to an entire generation of underpaid freelancers..Disinvited from HuffPo TV Appearance.”–Yunghi Kim ‏@Yunghi

“WRITERS, read this!(I won’t work for free either.)Nate Thayer Disinvited from HuffPo TV Appearance.”-Melissa Taylor ‏@MelissaWrites

 “wow! Trailblazer! Keep on fighting.”Karen ‏@Karrriebear1

“Love what Nate Thayer told HuffPo. Read why they disinvited him from TV Appearance request. @newyorkobserver”–Hagit Limor @hlimor Journalist; University of Cincinnati Assistant Professor; Past National President, Society of Professional Journalists

“It’s about fucking time we, as the creators of the product the corporate media is using as a vehicle for selling advertising, stand up for a fair and adequate wage for our work. Kudos to you, Nate, for being our Norma Rae. Fight the power!”—Commentator on my blog post.

“Why @Nate_Thayer rocks — highlights the use of interns in place of proper journos. #HuffPoTV”–Eugene Costello ‏@eugenecostello

“Nate Thayer keep it up, fans backing you globally”–Olivia Snaije

“@nate_thayer Just want to say thank you for standing up!!!”–Jeff Jung ‏@CareerBrkSecret

“Love him.”–Marcia Lynx Qualey  Friday Facebook

“He’s my disinvite brother!”–Marcia Lynx Qualey

“Love Thayer, but where’s the ‘loathe’ button for the systematic exploitation of writers trying to pay bills?”–Natasha Lehrer  Facebook

“@TheAtlantic Monthly wants #writers to work for free. Don’t give ’em your money. “–Evan Forster ‏@AuntieEvanSays 11 Apr

And More than a Few Comments Left me a Bit Flummoxed so Remain Uncategorized:

“This reads like The Big Lebowski’s resume: https://natethayer.wordpress.com/about/nate-thayer-awards-and-honors/ …”–Odd Hack ‏@Odd_Hack 11 Apr

Woman #1 to Woman #2: “I just tagged you in something Pam posted re: observer article”Caroline Tiger @carolinetiger

Woman #2: “Yes, I saw that observer article. I followed the link from there to here. But I heard about the observer article from so many people, I didn’t know who to tag. Really, we’re having the same conversation both here and on FB. But it’s bitcoins here, Nate Thayer there.”–Jenna Schnuer ‏@JennaSchnuer

“Two words: Freelancers Union.”–Barbara Alvarez Top Commenter, freelance writer and artist

“Can someone explain this new Nate Thayer thing in a tweet?”–David Holmes ‏@holmesdm 11 Apr

It’s about fucking time we, as the creators of the product the corporate media is using as a vehicle for selling advertising, stand up for a fair and adequate wage for our work. Kudos to you, Nate, for being our Norma Rae. Fight the power!”–Bret @ GGT April 12, 2013 at 12:36 pm 

This fellow was interesting mainly for his bio:

“Nate Thayer Disinvited from HuffPo TV Appearance #HuffPo truly sucks, you go @Nate_Thayer”–Robert McGarvey @rjmcgarvey Journalist. Columnist, Credit Union Times. Blogger: How to Rob Banks, The Mobility Hub. Mobile computing + mobile banking + bank technology + security expert Phoenix • http://www.mediabistro.com/RobtMcGarvey

“Nate Thayer and I: people who have been disinvited from huffpost live”Jess Mary Aloe ‏@JMary_A 1h

“Nate Thayer and HuffPo illustrate the concept of ‘getting to no’ “–Catherine Morris ‏@CatherineMorris  Canadian Law Proffessor and Human Rights Lawyer

“Nate Thayer Disinvited from HuffPo TV Appearance because huffpo doesn’t pay either”-Center for Innovation @CICM 11 Apr

“http://williamspromakeup.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/dont-work-for-free-its-killing-arts.html?view=flipcard”–Azzi Williams  London, United Kingdom

And this fellow wins the gold star for best publication title:

“When middle management becomes middle management, rather than editors who’ve worked their way up from having been writers, writing is seen as akin to mowing the lawn–i.e. here’s a thing that I could do if I wanted, but I have serious business to attend to, lets get some kid to do it, it’s not that hard. (And of course then content suffers, the bar gets lower, reader expectations get lower, and the whole industry reels backwards by about a hundred years.)”Evan Simko-Bednarski , Managing Editor / Founding Editor at Armchair/Shotgun

“I even refuse to read HuffPo because they don’t pay their writers.”Michele C. Hollow Top Commenter

And this woman, has the vote of my pal, Lamont:

Nate, thank you for continuing to blog on this topic of unpaid writers in general. As a 10-year veteran of freelance writing and editing (and a 20-year veteran of the publishing industry), I am seeing more and more of these “offers” as well. I greatly appreciate what you are doing by bringing this issue out into the light for the benefit of us all.” –Kim Kavin, member, ASJA, Author’s Guild, Boating Writers International, Dog Writers Association of America

This guy seems like his mind is made up on the merits of the Huff Post and their chief executive:

As a matter of principle, I do not read, I do not link to, and would never write for The Huffington Post. Run by phony liberal and full-time exploiter Arianna Huffington, she has set a template of how to destroy freelance writing. Huffington is the worst sort of exploiter. She can afford to pay her contributors, but refuses to. I think Arianna is a horrible person and a disease to journalism. The more successful she is the more destructive she is to the profession. I applaud your decision not to whore yourself out for a few fleeting minutes of publicity on her site.”—Jeff Winbush April 11, 2013 at 3:57 am

“Nate Thayer Disinvited from HuffPo TV Appearance exactly why we opted to run our own site!”–GlobetrotterGirls ‏@GlbetrotterGrls  

“Journalist whistleblower Disinvited from HuffPo TV! .. Shame on HuffPost…”–Diana Aitchison ‏@dianaaitchison

This guy stayed way clear on making his own feelings know—kinda:

“Nate Thayer to HuffPo: “You guys are the very poster child of using unpaid writers as the equivalent of slave labor.”–Dylan Byers @DylanByers Media Reporter, Politico | Phone: 703-842-1721 | Email: dbyers@politico.com | G-Chat: w.dylan.byers | Views are my own. RTs ≠ endorsements.

“Nate Thayer Disinvited from HuffPo TV Appearance”–Gary Andrew Poole ‏Contributor to TIME + Esquire + others. Authored biographies of Red Grange and Manny Pacquiao. http://www.garyandrewpoole.com

“And these stories go on and on. If I weren’t so pathetically enslaved by my own self on my own blog, I might go looking to write for Huffington Post just so I could turn them down when they offer to let me post on their pages for free. As it is, I’m thrilled to be living vicariously through Nate Thayer, who gets all the breaks. But seriously, even after the Atlantic affair, HuffPo, admittedly appreciating the irony, still invites him to participate on a panel where they’ll be discussing that sort of thing, but backs down when he reminds them that he’ll be including HuffPo in any discussion about expecting writers to write for nothing. Priceless.”—Comment on my blog Page

“Nate Thayer, he of the who did not want to write for free.”Dave Wyllie ‏@journodave 11 Apr

“Hehehe HuffPo. You heaving ugly mess.”–  Pooja ‏@poobrat 11 Apr

In summation, it is, at the least, clear there is a difference in opinion out there.

And I can confirm none of it is representative of the normal routine methods previously used to appraise my personal or professional qualities.

But it certainly can’t be denied that it has its entertainment merits–a fact I am sure I will, in retrospect, increasing appreciate .

One Response to “A Peak In the Public Mailbox: Debate on state of journalism runs from supportive to, well, very not–with a dash of the amusing and odd.”


  1. TGIF | Debbi Mack's Blog - April 26, 2013

    […] A peak in the public mailbox, etc. Thank you, Nate […]


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