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  • I'm a writer, journalist, and the editor of The Gambit, the alt-weekly newspaper in New Orleans.

    Journalism: My work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Globe & Mail (Canada), The Times- Picayune (New Orleans), The Oregonian, and Willamette Week, as well as in magazines including Details, Vogue, Publishers Weekly, and Portland Monthly.

    Publishing: Tight Shot, my first novel, was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. Its sequel, Hot Shot, was roundly ignored by everyone, but was a far better book. I'm also a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

    Stage: I was a member of the Groundlings and Circle Repertory West in Los Angeles, and am a playwright (see "Stage" in the right-hand rail).

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« Write for free!: Full speed ahead at The Oregonian | Main | Work for free!: Marc Cooper responds »

October 30, 2007

Comments

biff

Not sure I get your complaint. If the writers are getting something out of it, then good. If they weren't, they wouldn't do it, right? If they are any good, they'll eventually be able to make money from their work. If they aren't, they won't. My take is that, for the most part, the price (zero) is about right. The market at work!

But in any case, it's not anything at all like exploitation of immigrant workers because these writers all have options that immigrant workers don't have, and HP doesn't have any kind of hold over them. If they don't like writing for nothing, they don't have to. Frankly, the comparison is insulting -- like when Larry Craig said he now knows what it feels like to be profiled.

Cuisine Bonne Femme

So what happens when a liability suit is filed against a piece (and you know this being "journalism" it will happen). Who is held liable, the individual writer or are Off the Bus or Scoop08 taking on the liability insurance? 'Cause that could get really tricky, especially since they are billing themselves as a legitimate journalism source.

Finally, I guess my question is are these profit making entities? That is, are they specifically structured to take in ads and make a profit, or are they modeled more like Metroblogs or some other social media site? If it is the latter then I can understand not getting paid. However, if they are interested in becoming a Slate or Salon type thing then I would question the lack of payment as being well, if not unethical, then kind of scummy. But then again if people want to give it away for free then it is their right I suppose. I think it's called volunteering.

You know, businesses have been getting away with not paying people for years in the form of "internships". I finally wised up my first year in grad school when I realized the only difference between me and a certain consultant's expertise and talent was a business card, a business license and about $80.00 per hour. So guess what I did?

I think it is the same with writing. If you want to be a sucker and work for others for free while they make money off you, go right ahead. Or if you really want to write for free you could just do what thousands of others have done; start your own blog, work hard at it, and kick the pants off the mainstream media.

Marc Cooper

Thanks, Kevin, for spelling my name correctly because -- frankly-- you got just about everything else wrong in your rather absurd critique of OffTheBus.

Let me amend your recap of my personal bio by adding that earlier in my life I was the VP for Organizing for the National Writers Union. In that post it was my job to organize and fight for freelancers who were seeking just payment and treatment from their employers. I don't recall if you were part of any of those campaigns, you might refresh my memory.

Your criticism, by implication, discounts any and all notions of citizen journalism. If a precondition for being published is that you must be paid, and therefore meet a whole series of professional standards, then you close the door on all of the democratic opportunities offered by the Web.

The overwhelming majority of our contributors were previously unpublished and untested. Most of them are NOT correspondents or reporters but, instead, have decided to invest an hour or two a week in our distributive research projects i.e. attending an event and filling out a data form and adding some personal observations. These contributors perform their work enthusiastically and have expressed a great satisfaction in being able to participate in such a collective effort.

Some of our individual reporters are, in fact, well-paid journalists who have ASKED us for the chance to publish work their employers are no interested in. Other correspondents of ours are fully employed otherwise and are, in fact, delighted to be able to moonlight as citizen reporters and see their work read by thousands of Huffington Post readers.

Other contributors are previously existing citizen blogger-journalists working for free for themselves -- exactly-- as you do and we have merely reached agreements with them to re-purpose their material and help build traffic for their own sites.

Yet others among our contributors are newbies and are quite happy to exchange their work for the professional assistance and support offered by our quite modestly paid staff. The pieces we publish are often edited, reworked and improved by our professional staff.

I don't know about you, but in my case (back around 1970) I was paid $20 and sometimes less for the first pieces I published. I remember the first time I got paid $100 and thought I was going to pass out from excitement. And this was for for-profit outlets (OffTheBus.net is a NON-PROFIT). My writing wasn't worth much more at the time, but certainly had a value greater than twenty bucks. As my writing and confidence improved, I was able to raise my rates and move up the market ladder.

I have absolutely no doubt that some of our own OTB writers will eventually move on to well-paid assignments in other venues. I certainly hope so. They will achieve this in part because of the support, nurturing and mass exposure given to their writing by our project.

Our regular conference calls bubble with enthusiasm and eagerness from our growing group of contributors. There is a palpable excitment that they have found a channel through which to participate in covering something that otherwise would be off limits to them.

If you wish, I will be happy to include you in our next call and give you 10 minutes to pitch them on how to form a union and demand they be paid by a non-profit that has no funding to pay them. I will even lend you my old talking points from when I was chief organizer for the NWU.

Marc Cooper

Thanks, Kevin, for spelling my name correctly because -- frankly-- you got just about everything else wrong in your rather absurd critique of OffTheBus.

Let me amend your recap of my personal bio by adding that earlier in my life I was the VP for Organizing for the National Writers Union. In that post it was my job to organize and fight for freelancers who were seeking just payment and treatment from their employers. I don't recall if you were part of any of those campaigns, you might refresh my memory.

Your criticism, by implication, discounts any and all notions of citizen journalism. If a precondition for being published is that you must be paid, and therefore meet a whole series of professional standards, then you close the door on all of the democratic opportunities offered by the Web.

The overwhelming majority of our contributors were previously unpublished and untested. Most of them are NOT correspondents or reporters but, instead, have decided to invest an hour or two a week in our distributive research projects i.e. attending an event and filling out a data form and adding some personal observations. These contributors perform their work enthusiastically and have expressed a great satisfaction in being able to participate in such a collective effort.

Some of our individual reporters are, in fact, well-paid journalists who have ASKED us for the chance to publish work their employers are no interested in. Other correspondents of ours are fully employed otherwise and are, in fact, delighted to be able to moonlight as citizen reporters and see their work read by thousands of Huffington Post readers.

Other contributors are previously existing citizen blogger-journalists working for free for themselves -- exactly-- as you do and we have merely reached agreements with them to re-purpose their material and help build traffic for their own sites.

Yet others among our contributors are newbies and are quite happy to exchange their work for the professional assistance and support offered by our quite modestly paid staff. The pieces we publish are often edited, reworked and improved by our professional staff.

I don't know about you, but in my case (back around 1970) I was paid $20 and sometimes less for the first pieces I published. I remember the first time I got paid $100 and thought I was going to pass out from excitement. And this was for for-profit outlets (OffTheBus.net is a NON-PROFIT). My writing wasn't worth much more at the time, but certainly had a value greater than twenty bucks. As my writing and confidence improved, I was able to raise my rates and move up the market ladder.

I have absolutely no doubt that some of our own OTB writers will eventually move on to well-paid assignments in other venues. I certainly hope so. They will achieve this in part because of the support, nurturing and mass exposure given to their writing by our project.

Our regular conference calls bubble with enthusiasm and eagerness from our growing group of contributors. There is a palpable excitment that they have found a channel through which to participate in covering something that otherwise would be off limits to them.

If you wish, I will be happy to include you in our next call and give you 10 minutes to pitch them on how to form a union and demand they be paid by a non-profit that has no funding to pay them. I will even lend you my old talking points from when I was chief organizer for the NWU.

Mike Lyons

This was sort of addressed in your follow-up post, but haven't we entered a time when renumeration comes in forms other than money? Indeed this discussion gets sticky when we talk about for-profit sites. But it seems to me that payment in a participatory culture is participation.

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