Itâ€™s hard to make a living as a freelance journalist. And it certainly doesnâ€™t help when you have media organisations that will only pay a pittance in exchange for hours of research, interviewing and writing.
As media outlets cut back on staff, theyâ€™re keen to keep filling their pages using the work of freelancers who they can pay far less than they would a staff member.
The Media section of yesterdayâ€™s Australian outed Rural Press and singled out The Canberra Times as one of the nationâ€™s worst offenders.
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance recommends freelancers are paid a minimum of 73 cents a word. Rural Press pays as little as 12 cents a word â€“ which would equate to a measly $120 for a 1000 word feature that could take several days to put together:
“Editors at Rural Press newspapers have privately apologised to their contributors, confessing that they are embarrassed by their low rates. Negotiation attempts, however, have been met coldly by the pay offices.”
Twelve cents a word is a pretty appalling effort from a commercial enterprise like Rural Press â€“ especially when you consider The Big Issue, a not-for-profit publication sold by homeless people is still able to pay its freelance contributors 15 cents a word.
Essentially this amounts to exploitation, and a professional writer would be mad to contribute to the national capitalâ€™s so-called paper of record for this sort of money. For this rate of pay, the only writers they could hope to attract are the totally desperate, or up-and-coming/wannabe journalists who need to show some published work with a byline in order to score a paying gig. You’d be better off writing for the street press.