Grey Cardigan

Journalism No Longer Pays…

WHILE MY expanding PR portfolio is progressing well, one cannot live by ripping off cupcake and party bag wives alone, so I go in search of other sources of income.

Dear God, it’s like a bear pit out there. There are just too many redundant journalists jostling for too little work, and if you do come across a paying job, the rates you’re likely to get are quite pathetic.

Take my treacherous friends at the Guardian. A front page lead, on a national newspaper, now pays just £220. Contrast that with the £1,500 I got for a Mail on Sunday splash in the not-so-distant past. In the digital world, where the Guardian’s self-destructive streak gives away everything for free, it’s worse, much worse. A web-only story now pays a barely-worth-bothering £50, and that’s for a worldwide audience of 37 million people. Even a day in court providing ordered copy, once the banker for any freelance, now only pays £150. You’d get more driving a fucking bus.

The problem is two-fold. Firstly, no-one is making any significant money from the web apart from, perhaps, the Mail. Secondly, every clown with a keyboard is now a ‘writer’, so the traditional skills of the journalist have become completely devalued.

Venture out into the digital world and you’ll find plenty of sites happy to publish your work, but you won’t find many who want to pay for it. Only this week I had a call from a website owner asking me to contribute to his ‘project’. When I asked how much, he giggled nervously and suggested that I might want to do it for free to get the ‘exposure’. It would look good on my CV, he thought.
Look good on what CV? I’ve been at this game for 35 years. I don’t need ‘exposure’ and I don’t have a CV. I’ve never needed one, my reputation going before me.

No matter. He’ll find plenty of takers for his generous offer. Anyone who can string a sentence together (and many who can’t) can get their pathetic prattle published these days. The rise of the blogger has meant the downfall of the honest hack.

Football websites are by far the worst for this sort of thing. Do a quick Google and you’ll find 184,000 sites dedicated to Manchester United. That probably translates to 10 ‘proper’ sites and 183,990 spotty teenagers bashing away in their bedrooms, all claiming to know the latest on Ronaldo’s return. In a business infested with rumour and speculation, it must drive the proper football hacks completely barking mad.

Anyway, back to my own money-making mission. After two dozen phone calls, I finally strike lucky.

“We need a content curator to do a weekend shift on the sports desk,” says the editor of my local weekly. “Eighty quid a day and all the stationery you can steal.”

I slump into instant depression. “What’s a content curator?”

“Someone who handles raw copy from the public, turns it into something readable and sticks it on a page.”

“You mean a sub?”


“Then why didn’t you say so?”

So here I am, a former award-winning editor, back where it all started. Sitting on a shitty chair in a shitty office, subbing the shitty local league snooker results written in shitty biro on shitty paper from a school exercise book. And finding very little stationery about the place to steal.

Ain’t life a bitch.

THIS WEEK’S stellar PR offerings “to help me fill my pages” (bastards, utter bastards) include an invitation to a pet shop opening in Coventry, the offer of a cup of tea at a shop on Savile Row, and so much Royal Baby bullshit that you fervently wish that the males of the House of Windsor had been castrated in some kind of weird initiation rite at prep school. And I fear that it’s only just beginning.

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Grey Cardigan

Written by Grey Cardigan

The Grey Cardigan has been in newspapers since the days of hot metal and expense accounts. After a lengthy career as chief sub on several regional newspapers, plus a multitude of shifts on the nationals, he was appointed editor of the Evening Beast in 2009 before being ignominiously 'rationalised' last year. He is currently collecting gas in jam jars in case the Russians cut us off. @thegreycardigan

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