Norma Rae moment



Media blogger Jim Romenesko was kind enough to post an irritated letter I fired off last week to Arianna Huffington.

I won’t go into the contents of the letter, because if you’re here, you’ve probably read it. (If you haven’t, it’s at the link, above.)

For the moment, I seem to be a bit of a Norma Rae figure to mistreated journalists everywhere. It’s a role I’m willing to take on. I, for one, am fed up with the way writers, reporters, editors, photographers and all creative types are treated in this age of cheap, disposable “content.” We professionals are expected to work for next to nothing, or, increasingly, for nothing.

But someone is profiting from our labor: Our media overlords. Arianna Huffington, for example, sold the Huffington Post in 2011 for $300 million and has a personal net worth of $21 million. Would you like to know how much money I have in my checking account today? I’ll tell you: I have $6.76. No joke. I am not even embarrassed to admit this, because I work all the time. I am currently owed five figures’ worth of freelance fees for stories I reported, wrote and turned in weeks—even months—ago, for some of the biggest media corporations in the world. These corporations, their executives and stockholders, are the ones who should be ashamed.

I also sometimes stumble across my work posted on huge commercial websites I have no relationship with. These sites post my work, sell advertising against it, and make money without paying me a cent. Web publishers call the practice “aggregating.” I think we can all agree that it’s “stealing.”

I hope the creative class can start standing up for itself. If everybody fights back, the industry will have to change.

If you’re having your own issues, you might begin with this manifesto on why I no longer provide free writing samples to prospective employers or this animated video I made a few years ago on the insanity of freelancing for women’s magazines.

If you’re really inspired, consider lending your name to the Freelancers’ Union campaign Freelance Isn’t Free, to fight for protection against deadbeat employers and nonpaying clients.

Let’s start fighting back.