I didn’t have time to think about the New York Times column about freelance ethics yesterday. I only read and mulled it over.
At first glance, I didn’t see what some writers on other forums were getting themselves worked up about. I read it as a column looking more at The New York Time’s policies, rather than a swipe at freelancers.
But this morning, I did. The overall tone of the column is insulting. The fact that he points out that we independent journalists are doing the work cheaper than staffers – that, to me, is almost a similar tone used in the immigration debate – as if we are doing the work others are unwilling to do.
And while a column doesn’t have to have balance, he didn’t seem to want to get the point of view of freelancers. He didn’t point out that while we are doing the work maybe cheaper, we are also doing it at greater risk than many of our counterparts in newsrooms. In most cases, we assume greater risk because we cannot get media libel insurance, much less basic health insurance at reasonable rates. And he fails to point out that if media companies were paying a fair rate to freelancers, instead in most instances, the going rate of about $1 a word or less (and I know, I’ve heard from those of you who are making upwards of $2 a word – but I still think this is the top, top rate and very uncommon) that we wouldn’t have to seek work to supplement our true love (journalism), which woud allow us to completely and forever avoid potential conflicts.
But then my mind switched back to a discussion I had with other writers a couple of weeks ago regarding the tactics used by a New York Post “correspondent,” who reportedly lied to see an accused kidnapper in a Missouri jail. Comments such as “Good for her,” or other comments that applauded her because afterall, we’re out to get the story so we can sell it, right? came to mind.
And those kinds of attitudes allowed me to understand the overall tone of this column when I reread it this morning.
So, what do SPJ independents think? Are we the exception because of our association with the organization that pretty much sets the tone for ethics in journalism?