Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What's a Writer Worth?

Jim Rainey's "On the Media" column in today's L.A. Times features a gloomy outlook for freelance writers.

He accurately nails the twin dilemmas of shrinking newspapers/magazines and websites that recruit professionals - Chamber of Commerce types, think tank pundits and professors - as free columnists, spurning the tradition of paying journalists for their talents.

Back in November, the BusinessWeek SmallBiz page featured a column decrying the freelance economy in general. Not sure I agree with his conclusions, but it's an interesting debate.

Having been happily self-employed for two decades, I hope I never have to return to employer-based work. But the outlook for writers who expect a living wage seems to be dimming.


  1. This was a pretty gloomy snapshot--

  2. I agree. I wouldn't want to be starting out now, that's for sure!

  3. I believe things happen in cycles. But I have no idea how long it will take for this one to turn around.

  4. You're right, Petrea. This cycle is a weird one, though, because so many of the variables are changing.

    My optimistic thought is that as the Internet becomes our primary information tool, quality sites will need to differentiate by putting our better stuff. And better stuff usually means paying the pros rather than relying on amateurs.

  5. Such is my thought, Karen. The same is true in the acting business. The cycle has been "go for what's cheapest." The result: reality TV. In 2009, movies did really well. TV suffered. To me the reason is obvious. People still want to see well-written, well-acted stories.

    I think people still want to read well-written material, too, and I think they want their facts checked. Like you said, the variables are changing and we don't know how it's all going to pan out (or how long it's going to take).

    My mother told me I should learn how to type so I'd have something to fall back on. That was useful for a good, long while!