In her 2008 book, This Land is Their Land, Barbara Ehrenreich pointed out that even local news organizations like pasadenanow.com were hiring journalists in India. To cover, yes, local news in Pasadena. From New Delhi. I guess Google Earth and YouTube help, but how can a reporter in India really know what is going on in California? Who cares, I guess, if they save the news organization money so that its CEO can earn even more.
Last year, when looking into a blogging job, I noticed that this particular website's Paris writer didn't even live in Paris. Can you blame her? How could she? The site only paid its writers with ad revenue. The worst part is, its readers probably don't know this. If this isn't shady journalism then I don't know what shady journalism is. Oh yeah, Fox News.
All of these trends send a clear message. If we're going to be writers abroad and actually be able to make a living wage, then the place to write from isn't Paris, isn't London, and it certainly isn't any city in Switzerland. No. The place to write from is India.
How else can we afford to write for pennies? According to Dian Vujovich, ten years ago the standard pay for a freelance writer was about $1 a word. Have experience and expertise and you'd get double or more. But now, publications want to pay professional writers 10 cents a word. Or 5. Or, like our great source of local Parisian news mentioned above, they don't even want to pay that.
But there are some places that still pay well, you say. You're right. But they make up for the pay by turning greedy in the rights department, buying rights to your work in media that hasn't even been invented yet. Trying to imagine retaining copyright to your work is like trying to imagine Wal-Mart paying its employees a living wage.
I don't know what the solution is to all of this is, except to make sure you can do something on the side that's still hard to outsource. Like dishwashing.
How do you feel about the way writers are treated? What can we do?