PAY THE WRITERS

Have you heard Huffington Post’s attitude towards paying for content? If not, you’re in for a treat: it seems that the editor of Huff Post UK is “proud” that the company doesn’t pay writers, otherwise it wouldn’t be “real”.

That’s right. The UK editor of a multi-million dollar (or so I’m guessing) company doesn’t think it’s appropriate to pay writers. You know, the people who are writing the content for the site that earns him the money to live on. Which of course writers don’t need.

meredith-irritation

In an interview with BBC Radio 4, Stephen Hall explained why he doesn’t pay the 13,000 or so contributors to Huff Post UK. 13,000 of them. All unpaid. And he’s proud of it.

Here’s what he said: “If I was paying someone to write something because I wanted it to get advertising pay, that’s not a real authentic way of presenting copy. So when somebody writes something for us, we know it’s real. We know they want to write it. It’s not been forced or paid for. I think that’s something to be proud of.”

I’ll just let you bang your head against the desk for a minute.

Done? Ok.

I’m almost speechless. It’s such an appalling statement. It’s as if any revenue from advertising that may magically appear is a happy coincidence, not something that’s been meticulously planned and budgeted for.

But it’s so blatant, too. How is it even possible? It’s as if someone’s saying, “You create the work that gets us paid, but we won’t pay you. HAHAHA!” Who, in any other profession, would be happy with that arrangement?

Essentially, it’s fuelling the belief that we, as writers, aren’t worth paying for. That our words are nothing more than mindless fodder for those with time on their hands to read them. That it’s easy to bash out words on the page – a monkey can write Shakespeare, after all.

It perpetuates the idea that we should be doing it for the love of our craft, that the prospect of “exposure” and respect should be enough to keep food on the table and our houses paid for, and that the warm glow of knowing we’re being truly “authentic” in our vision is all we need to sustain ourselves.

Except it isn’t. It doesn’t even come close. Respect doesn’t pay the rent.
Now, there are of course cases where writers write because they want to, with no prospect of remuneration at the end of it. Be it the creative need to write (someone who simply has to); to build a personal platform, brand or authority (perhaps on a blog); to practice technique and form by simply getting words on the page; or maybe to enter competitions. These kinds of things are acceptable forms of freebie writing and are arguably a vital part of the writer’s craft, being a way to hone their skills, get their voices heard, and ultimately carve a path to success.

But that’s it.

It shouldn’t be the case when it comes to writing for commercial purposes. If you’re writing for a publication, individual, or company that’s making money from your writing, you should be making money from it, too. Huff Post is entirely based on content providers. It depends on them. It’s all words. Your writing sells and it’s what earns them the big bucks.  So why shouldn’t you be suitably compensated for it?

“But you should be happy to write for nothing! It shows you’re real! It shows you’re authentic! It shows you’re a true artist!”

Oh really? Would you work for nothing simply to prove yourself as a good chef/accountant/lawyer? Should we not pay builders, doctors, solicitors, engineers or the Huff Post editor, for fear that the treatment we’d get, the service we’d receive, would be inauthentic if we paid for it?

So why treat writers any differently?

It simply doesn’t happen in any other industry, bar the creative one. And it’s ridiculous. If you’re working, if you’re providing a service in any way shape or form, you should be paid for it. Writers included.

The frustrated writer (a rant)

“But you get to write all day! You’re doing what you love for a living, you’re so lucky. I wish I could be writing instead of working on the tills/in a call centre/in an office [delete as appropriate].”

Do you? Do you really? Because let me tell you, writing for a living isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, unless you truly are lucky and are getting paid to write about the things you want to write about.

I don’t have that luxury. At all. I “specialise” in a single subject, but at best the things I write about barely interest me, and at worst I flat out detest the words that are spewing from my fingertips. It’s dry, boring and there’s nothing to get my teeth into, and the pressure of writing a lot of words in the minimum amount of time means I’m barely brushing the surface of most things.

And I’m still in an office. A bland, boring office that saps my inspiration, energy and sanity on a daily basis. By the time I get home from a day of churning out page after page of uninspiring claptrap I’m in no fit state to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) for the duration of the evening. I often can’t bring myself to do anything more than think about the kind of things I want to write about. And even that’s pushing it.

I get frustrated at my lack of motivation, which in all fairness, has been brought on by sheer brain-melting boredom and a necessity to get thousands of words onto the page during my working hours, burning me out in the process. My brain cannot fathom the thought of writing anything else; it just won’t. It straight up refuses. It has devolved into mush.

I go to bed and lament my job and my inability to write in my own time. I sleep un-restfully, wake up annoyed (and already bored) and head back to my desk where I’m silently screaming at the screen by lunchtime.

And so the pattern continues.

I think it’s actually sending me slightly crazy.

Of course, I know I’m lucky really. I’ve got a stable job that allows me to live fairly comfortably, and there are certain parts of it that I genuinely do enjoy, it’s just that I don’t get the time to really develop those aspects (cue more frustration).

I’m in a better position than many in that I have security – certainly more than I had when I freelanced – and I suppose I do still get to write for a living, even if it isn’t exactly on subjects I’d choose to write about. I can’t imagine doing anything other than writing as my day job, that’s for sure. Silver linings and all that.

But we all need to rant sometimes, right?

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