Thursday, March 21, 2013

The great freelancing debate

You know what's embarrassing? Watching this debate over freelancing for free. Which started here. Had an orgy here. And reached its peak here with this interesting insight c/o Felix Salmon:
"Digital journalism isn’t really about writing, any more — not in the manner that freelance print journalists understand it, anyway. Instead, it’s more about reading, and aggregating, and working in teams; doing all the work that used to happen in old print-magazine offices, but doing it on a vastly compressed timescale."
I was in Boca Raton, Florida, when the whole thing went down. (Which, of course, is a ridiculous thing to say: "I was in Boca Raton, Florida, when [FILL IN THE BLANK].") Everyone where I was in Boca was rich. Actually, I realized, they weren't rich. They were wealthy. "What do all these people do?" someone asked me at some point. I had no answer. They drove convertible Bentleys and had young men in white shorts set up beach chairs for them and stayed out of the water when the lifeguard saw sharks. Observing the wealthy in their native habitat, it occurred to me what the wealthy want: For the time between when they want something and when that want is sated to be as short as possible. That is wealth. To buy that which cannot be bought: time.

Mostly, though, reading over the freelance debate, I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed for the freelancers who couldn't decide whether or not freelancing for free meant they were worthless. I was embarrassed for the editors publicly admitting how poorly they paid their contractors without admitting how embarrassed they were by their actions. Embarrassed by what the internet has become -- a red light district in which the whores pretend they're not whores by fucking for cheap.

You know what else is embarrassing? I wrote a piece for The Daily Beast back in October, and I still haven't been paid for it. $300. I email, I ask, I remind, and they haven't paid it yet. That's embarrassing. Embarrassing for the woman in accounts payable who has to deal with it. Embarrassing for Tina Brown, whose 2011 salary was estimated by the NYT to be $700,000. Embarrassing for freelancers for whom there are no solutions, just more humiliation.