Anil Thakraney: Freelance writers need to be paid more

22 Jun,2012

By Anil Thakraney


Although I haven’t suffered the same fate (so far at least!), freelance journalists/columnists I know still crib about very poor payments. They have been cribbing about this for many years, and it hasn’t changed. Despite the so-called economic boom, the media explosion and the killing inflation. Even those publications that are doing pretty well for themselves, and don’t think twice before splurging on photography, travel, technology, and so on, get suddenly hit by poverty pangs when it’s time to negotiate with freelance writers. It’s still that pre-historic, measly ‘per word’ figure.


And this amazes me, really. One would have thought with the increased competition across various media forms, quality of content would be given maximum priority. Which means ensuring that the best writers and reporters are assigned to do stories or write columns. And these people are paid handsomely to keep them engaged and fired up. But that’s not how it seems to have panned out. From what I hear, freelance contributors continue to get step-motherly treatment.


This then results in quality writers who are unable to survive on freelance assignments being compelled to seek other options. Some get married to loaded partners, some turn into full time authors, some migrate to the corporate world and others simply fade away. And who loses in the process? The media, of course. No wonder the quality of writing is so low in many publications and web portals. Because the editors/content heads offer peanuts, they end up with monkeys, as the proverb goes.


So then why is this ancient mind-set not changing? Why are freelancers still being put at the bottom of the food chain? I think it has got to do with the mind block most editors suffer from, it’s a legacy they have carried over from the past. This must change very quickly. Media brands that continue to dish out sub-standard content will find the going tough. Because quality contributors will move away to greener pastures.


I must also add here that this mind-set has changed in the Indian film industry. In the past, story and screenplay writers were paid shabbily and this resulted in so many pathetic flicks being churned out. In recent times however, writers have come to the party and they command good remuneration. The overall quality of our cinema has also improved. If it can happen there, there’s no reason why the media must remain frozen in the ice age.


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