(photo credit: Kristen Lamb, http://authorkristenlamb.com/)
If there is such a thing as a calling, mine would be writing. I’ve always loved creative pursuits of all kinds but writing, that was what I always knew I would do with my life. Could I make a career out of it? That I didn’t know.
For several years out of college, I did make a career out of my writing. I wrote for business, for non-profits, for health organizations, for entertainment. Mostly, I wrote marketing and pr copy, which I did well, but ultimately, it didn’t satisfy my need to write. I wanted to communicate, to talk about the big issues, to be human. Not to sell as much as teach. And learn.
Which sent me into a tailspin. The way I learned about the world was from human interaction and novels and essays. I wanted to use my natural skills to contribute to what interested me most. But my work in marketing and pr paid pretty well. Writing novels and essays did not pay well, often did not pay at all. Even print journalists were not paid as if what they did had as much value as it does in our lives.
Instead of questioning why writers were not paid well, I accepted it. It bothered me, but who was I to speak up? I didn’t like that people didn’t value writers, even though without communication, we would be lost. But I kept quiet.
Then I started hearing about writers and other creative types, who work their butts off, being expected to work for large organizations without payment. Recently, I read about a performer, a comedian, who was asked to perform at a tour stop for some program that was run by Oprah Winfrey’s organization. She was expected to do her act for free. They told her it would be good exposure.
That’s what they always say. Work for free. It’s good for you because we reach a lot of people whom you can reach through performing or writing for us. And, in some cases, it is exposure. But . . . in the case of this comedian and the Oprah program, they were charging people almost $1000 per person to attend. Everybody else was being paid for their work. Just not the performers.
Then, this week, Steven Hull, the editor of Huffington Post, UK, stated publicly how proud he was to run a publication that deliberately does not pay the people (the writers) whose work makes the publication’s existence possible. What?
Steven Hull, I am certain, gets paid for his job. But the people who do the hard work of writing, and it is hard work to do it well, don’t deserve to be compensated for their work. Huffington Post is a multi-million dollar company.
This sounds to me like exploitation. In whatever business you are in, would you ever allow a representative of that business get away with saying that they were proud of not paying the people who make their business viable?
I feel sick. These companies have the funds to pay the big-wigs, to pay the behind the scenes employees, but the artists, the creators, the hardworking folk who make it possible to communicate with others on a variety of issues don’t get paid.
A couple of other creatives have done an outstanding job explaining why this is not okay. My favorite is Kristen Lamb who calls what Huffington Post does a literary booty call. Here’s my favorite quote from today’s blog post:
“I once was excited to be asked to post for Huffington. I’ll admit, I bit too. At first I felt this gushy pride like I’d been asked to the prom by the captain of the football team, Huff Po. He was soooo cute and other kids would see me on Huff’s arm and be soooo jealous. What that would do for my status!
But what began as this fantasy that Huff loved me turned sour when he didn’t bring me flowers and only wanted to bend me over the limo for a quickie before he picked up the date he really loved, Advertisina.”
Read the rest of her blog (link here). And then read the post (link here) by the comedian who was asked to perform on Oprah’s tour. Then, if you can handle a foul mouth with a lot of wisdom, read Chuck Wendig’s blog post from yesterday about Steven Hull’s comments (link here.)
I read the Huffington Post regularly. I link to it. I’ve considered submitting to it. But that is all over for me. If I believe that what they do regarding writers in wrong, I cannot continue to support them.
Most of you are not writers or artists or performers. But that shouldn’t make this issue any less important. In a capitalistic culture, people pay for products they value. Writing (and art and theater, etc.) is a product. It is a product that most people can’t create. It is a product that adds value to our lives.
What kind of company does not pay those who do the work?
Please read the blog posts above. In addition to being well written, they are entertaining and do a great job making an important point. Here are the links again (Kristen Lamb’s blog, Chuck Wendig’s blog, Revolva’s blog.)
Read them. Think about it. Think about what is right and what is wrong.
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