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Is the Canberra Times a sweatshop?

Caz 18 November 2005 6

It’s hard to make a living as a freelance journalist. And it certainly doesn’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, they’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 yesterday’s Australian outed Rural Press and singled out The Canberra Times as one of the nation’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 – 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 – 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 capital’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.

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6 Responses to Is the Canberra Times a sweatshop?
Kerces Kerces 11:11 am 19 Nov 05

I know someone who got paid $50 for their 200 words for Crikey — 25c a word.

RA currently pays 0c per word for all your stories.

So how much is a word worth? Should that depend on where it’s published and how many people will see it?

73c a word does seem to me (right now) to be quite a lot, but if sometime in the future I find myself freelancing I would probably think that was a very fair rate.

Manda Manda 10:53 pm 18 Nov 05

Many moons ago i worked for CT in their advertising department. It was easily the worst job i had ever had. You got crap wages for the right to be treated like dogs.

I have not bought a single copy of the paper since.

seepi seepi 6:24 pm 18 Nov 05

CT freelance rate hasnt’ gone up in 10 years.

redneck_ninja redneck_ninja 3:27 pm 18 Nov 05

If you think the CT, try working for rural press newspapers in the country…not much money to offer there.

Chris Chris 2:10 pm 18 Nov 05

The CT (Lit Ed now moved on) once printed something I’d written and “paid” me with a review copy of a paperback.

Snarky Snarky 1:48 pm 18 Nov 05

I gave my CT sub about three months ago – there was simply far too little good, unique local content and analysis to justify reading it, let alone buying it. I get most of my news from the radio and the net these days. But the CT, as does all commercial media, doesn’t make money from a newspaper buyer- it makes it from selling ad space to advertisers. Buyers usually just cover the cost of actually putting ink and paper on the press, nothing more. By buying lowest-cost journalism Rural Press must surely soon lose that chunk of their thinking, and wealthier, readership, and hence their advertising profits. No-ones going to to pay the top dollar the CT asks for ad that ends up lining a old-age pensioner’s budgie cage. I don’t pay for any news content off teh net now, but if there was a good source I probably would – it’d be nice to know what’s on and happening in what is a reasonably large city. What other media sources do you use for local news and analysis?

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