Grey Cardigan
1

Why are writers expected to work for free?

IT HAPPENS at least twice a week: “I’m a great fan of your work. Would you like to contribute to this blog/website/e-book which I’m publishing? There’s no initial fee, but if it goes well there could be plenty of money further down the line and it’ll look great on your CV.”

You lying bastards. There is no money. There never will be any money. And I haven’t updated my CV (if I could even find it) for 15 years. You just want me to work for free.

Why is it that writers, artists, photographers and musicians are expected to hand over their hard work for nothing to anyone who asks for it? You wouldn’t walk into Greggs, grab a couple of steak bakes and wander out without expecting to pay. You wouldn’t try to convince them that you consuming their wares would look good on their CV or was excellent promotion of their bakery skills.

The cause, of course, is the bloody internet. Since the arrival of blogs everyone is a fucking journalist, and the sheer number of knobheads out there who are happy to churn out their boring, bland opinions just for the supposed glory of seeing their name in lights means that the notion of actually paying for well-written, thought-provoking words is now almost redundant.

Why does this matter? Well it means that true creativity is stifled as writers and photographers give up the daily battle to put food on the table and the level of national debate continues to be dumbed down. Mark my words, it won’t be long before someone called @billyblogger24 is writing the leader column in The Times.

EVERYONE with a bit of a sniffle (and that’s most of us at this time of year) will have been drawn to a page lead in the Sun last week headed: ‘Mutant flu kills 29,000 in two weeks’. Thankfully it turned out to be bollocks, so we live to fight another day.

When you actually read the story, it turned out that 29,000 people had died in England and Wales, up on 22,000 from the same period last year. It was, of course, a very cold fortnight. Also, of those 7,000, more than three-quarters were aged 75 or over and the vast majority of those were care home residents, where infections are more easily spread. Panic over; pass the Lemsip.

SOMETIMES, a good newspaper can bring you to tears. In the case of the Guardian, that’s usually tears of laughter.

The quinoa-scoffing nincompoops were at it again last week, running a full-page ad in which columnist Polly Toynbee urged Guardian readers to help keep the ‘precarious’ newspaper in business. According to Polly, “We don’t have an owner or corporate propping us up. We don’t have a press baron or oligarch ordering us to take their political or commercial line. We swim along in a dangerous world of media sharks, our independence precious and unique.”

Polly, who almost certainly pockets £100,00-plus a year courtesy of those few Guardian readers who still cough up £1.60 for a weekday issue instead of reading it all for free on the internet, wants those dear people to support the Guardian’s precious journalism (no mention of playing with Lego here) by spending another £540 a year by joining a membership scheme allowing them to attend Guardian events, classes and lectures.

Come to events with us, debate the great issues of the day, meet up with Guardian writers and readers. As a member, you matter to us not just for your support, but because we gain from your insight too.”

What Polly omits to mention is that while the Guardian might not have “an owner or corporate propping us up”, it does have a bloody great trust fund of around £850 million which, even with the feckless fools pissing away £20 million a year in losses, will keep it in business for many years to come.

Rarely has such pomposity accompanied such duplicity.

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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

  • moaning mike

    Polly Toynbee writes: Who are Greggs? What is a steak bake?

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