Journalism takes time and money, but the industry is slowly dying
There is a (mistaken) perception that journalistic work is, in general, something simple to do. Well, anyone can talk to 2–3 people and write something, right? Wrong.
I published last week, with Study Hall, an article that I started researching and pitching back in…. 2019! It took me over a year between having the idea, researching, convincing an editor to pay for the story, interviewing over a dozen people (to end up using only part of what I collected), writing, and going through several rounds of editing.
By the end of 2020, finally, all done.
But at the end of the year everything stops. More than a month and the draft was still in the queue. January begins and one of the publishers asks me for even more work (they paid for it, so no complaints here), 3 new rounds of editing, I had to talk again with a source, collect more information… And finally, it was published.
Of course, not every story takes so long or is so laborious, but many are. And in many cases, the payment is virtually the same whether we work for a year or a week on a draft. Few are the media that pay according to work, time, and effort. And most of them pay poorly (this draft in particular even yielded something above the average, but not nearly enough considering all the work and effort I had to put in it).
And the fact that most places pay poorly means that we, freelancers, have less and less time to devote to long and laborious drafts, long stories, because, in the end, we need quantity and not necessarily quality.
It’s a tremendous dilemma. Of course, the best thing is to have time and be well paid to do great work, but that’s not what always happens — in fact, it’s rare.
But back to the main reasoning, quality journalism takes time and is not easy or simple (to do). On average, for a more in-depth article, it takes me at least two months of work. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but in the end that article that someone takes 10 minutes to read, had hundreds of hours of hard work behind it. I know of articles that take much longer, years of research, investigation and fact-checking. But these seem to be increasingly rare.
Yesterday I heard the news that City Monitor is shutting dow. I was writing an article for them when the editor told me the news. It’s heartbreaking. Not only for me and other freelancers who lost a publication that paid fair rates but also for the journalists that will lose their jobs.
This has become commonplace. News outlets shutting down, layoffs, cut in fees… More and more I (we) have to write for more outlets paying horrible fees just to pay rent and make ends meet. The good ones are closing or reducing freelance content (and/or fees).
Why do I say that? I honestly don’t know. Maybe it’s an outburst in times of hardship, shortcuts, dwindling paychecks, ever-shrinking newsrooms, and freelancers swimming against the tide in an industry in crisis.