I share the pain and frustration of freelance colleagues who wrote a letter to unnamed publishers over pay and conditions but it’s a waste of time.
Like them I work every day gathering news and selling it to publishers and have been since 1990. Budgets have shrunk, and commissioning editors barely have time to look at anything other than the next edition, never mind payments for the previous edition.
But writing an open letter to publishers is going to change nothing. They have the same problems we do. Income. If the budget is not there, a commissioning editor can’t do anything about it.
As Press Gazette has reported frequently, the real enemy is the digital duopoly which has taken the money that used to pay our wages from the publishers that we work for.
The solution, if there is one, is not to found in wasting time fighting over an ever smaller pie.
Instead, freelance journalists need to work together to come up with new ways to provide news that supports the work of publishing partners. That doesn’t mean to say the news provided by the journalists who signed the protest letter is any less valuable.
But they need to look at countless other factors, the way they supply it, who they are supplying to and how they react when they are not paid.
With new technology there are many potentials, and we should work together to try them out and share the results, or else nothing will change. The pie will continue to get smaller, and more and more talented professionals will leave the business – all too often joining the armies of PR and marketing people to produce content to fill the void.
I run a news agency, we have exactly the same problems with getting paid as other freelancers but we also sit on the fence in commissioning content from freelancers, and then try to work out how to pay them when we also don’t get paid.
Our project has opened a Slack group which is to help and support freelance journalists, but it is not just open for freelance journalists, it’s also open to commissioning editors, or to people looking for staff, or to promote new ideas.
It is not about organising campaigns against publishers. It’s about finding ways to work with them and comparing notes on how to still continue paying the bills.
Slack communities are communities where there are no adverts, no spam, in this case the only thing can control is entry to make sure that only journalists are allowed to join.
Our slack channels are divided into geographical regions by county or shire, allowing local freelancers often working in isolation to at least meet others in the virtual world, or to meet up afterwards in real life.
There are many other channels set up as groups to discuss ways to earn money, but if you want to take part in those or suggest others, then you need to join.
To do so simply send an email with details of your journalistic credentials to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will sign you up or log in here.
Already one major quality news publisher in the UK is among the partners we have built up for our dialogue and to trial some of our initiatives. The dialogue is about what we can do for them so that they can pay us for our journalism.
By all means, if you disagree continue protesting, but don’t close the door on something new as well. Join our slack channel or start your own, there are many opportunities and some will work if we take the time to trial them.