Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Are Boston writers undervalued, underpaid?

As a Boston-based freelance writer consistently getting work, I'm sick and tired of rogue publications raping me for content -- and ultimately making a profit from the hours of research, editing and writing I put in to make a piece work for their publication.

Armed with years of writing and editing experience in NYC and Florida, it's disgusting how undervalued and underpaid the freelance scene is here. The ideas we come up with as journalists and writers help shape and mold the cultural landscape. Content is king. Without our expertise, local publications, books and Web sites would be as superficial as the celebutante pop tarts littering contemporary pop culture.

I recently spent months on a book project highlighting the hidden not-for-tourists gems scattered throughout the city. The pocket-sized guidebook is actually a smart, well-designed publication so I was fooled into thinking they would value their writing team. Wrong.

In many cases, the deadlines were strict and insane. I spent many hours writing, met all of my deadlines and when it came time for payment ... guess what? Yep, I was put off and ignored. It's hilarious what these guys wanted to pay me for the time I put in and when it came down to it, I had to basically beg for the miniscule check.

If we're expected to meet our deadlines outlined by our contractual agreement, then the publisher should be held just as accountable. Period.

Unfortunately, my experience with the publication I mentioned above is commonplace. In Florida, for example, I worked three years with a wannabe alternative newsweekly (which acted more as a vanity project to bloat the publisher’s already huge ego so he could push his ill-conceived civic and political agenda under the guise of journalism).

When it came time for the publisher to pay his staff, he would conveniently hide or try to change the topic to avoid the conversation. Many times, he would write us a check and it would bounce because of insufficient funds. The bank tellers would often laugh in my face when I tried to cash the publisher's bogus checks.

Long story short, the trend to undervalue and underpay writers seems to be getting worse thanks to publications like BostonNOW. The Boston Chapter of the National Writers Union recently published the piece, “All Fun and No Pay?” which blasts BostonNOW for trying to pimp free content without compensation.

Bottom line: As Boston-based freelance journalists, essayists and book writers, we need to mobilize as a unified group and demand fair payment for our work.

No pay? No way.

Click here to join the National Writers Union.

1 comment:

CJK said...

It's not just writers, it's artists, too. I've given up freelancing.

Clients—whose success is largely built on my designs—invariably get too big for their britches. The better they do, the worse they treat the person who was such an integral part of their success.

You'd think that skyrocketing sales, attention from national distributors, would indicate that something is being done more than right, and they'd recognize that and value it.

Not so. The better they do, the more important they think they are, the less important they think you are. Suddenly, you're having to nag to get paid (because now they're doing YOU a favor by letting you work on their projects).

I'm sick of it. I'd rather go back to corporate and let some poor account manager deal with the clients so I can just do art.

Your Ad Here