One freelancer’s take-aways from EIJ15

Guest blogger: Hazel Becker 

hbheadshot2Excellence in Journalism 2015 (EIJ15), the big SPJ journalism conference that took place in Orlando, Fla., last weekend, offered several opportunities for freelancers to meet each other and share their stories.

There was much to absorb – too much, perhaps, in just three days devoted to learning how to be better at what we do while also making connections with other journalists and doing the business of the three sponsoring organizations: SPJ, the Radio Television Digital News Association, and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Here are a few quick observations:

  • Freelancers were everywhere! Whether we call ourselves “independent journalists” or something else, there are more of us every year, and our numbers are increasing in all forms of journalism.
  • The blurring lines between delivery media seem to be making it easier for us to step out of our print/broadcast/digital boxes. For the most part, we are all doing the same thing – telling stories to audiences that need, want, or enjoy hearing them. So are employed journalists – and whether the producer is independent or on staff is less important than it was in the past.
  • Freelancers continue to seek each other out. We are becoming less fearful of “the competition” – each other! – and beginning to realize that the challenges we face are not unique. We have much to learn from each other.
  • While we face obstacles that employed journalists may not come up against – primarily on the business side – we are not alone in experiencing upheaval in our work world. The way news and features are generated and disseminated is in turmoil for our entire profession, leaving everyone unsettled.

I left EIJ15 with several vexing questions. Most troubling to me, for independent journalists, are these two:

  • How can we best respond to publishers’ increasing demands that we bear the liability not only for our work but also for theirs?
  • How can we bring some rationality to the jumbled marketplace in which we now do business, to make it easier for freelancers to connect with publishers willing to pay for our services according to the quality they are seeking, and the effort required to produce that quality?

The coming year promises to be interesting. Perhaps we will begin to see the road ahead before EIJ16. See you all in New Orleans!

Hazel Becker is a freelance journalist and publications consultant in Washington, D.C. She produces and edits business stories primarily in the areas of taxation, insurance, and personal finance. 

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