I must confess that many times when I plan a vacation, I think about whether it could be the springboard for an article. That’s the life a freelancer: you’re always spinning your wheels trying to figure out if your life experiences are fodder for a compelling article. I especially enjoy this exercise when it comes to travel. There’s something particularly exciting about finding a way to write about my journeys in a way that’s helpful to the public. I was fortunate enough to be able to feature my travel experiences in two articles recently. Last December, when I headed to Mexico with my extended family, I wrote an article for Considerable with tips for creating the best intergenerational travel experience. This past spring, when my sister and I decided to take a long weekend getaway to celebrate my daughter’s college graduation, I wrestled with how to pitch that story. We were getting a great deal at a luxurious resort because it was in the depths of the desert; I wondered if there were other bargains to be found at similarly hot luxury resort destinations. Indeed, there were. Just as the three of us were packing up to leave our resort, I got an email from The New York Times travel editor that she wanted the story. The result was the piece, Chilling in the Desert, that ran in both the online and Sunday print edition. It’s definitely a perk of the job being able to write about your travel experiences and have that documented in a public forum. I hope I’ll have more opportunities to do this in the future as I embark on travel to new destinations.
I wanted to stand up and shout a resounding “amen!” after reading Tim Kreider’s article in The New York Times that exposed the way publications try to get experienced writers to offer their services for free. This was also exposed by Nate Thayer, who blogged about being approached by The Atlantic to write an article without being compensated even one penny. In an e-mail, Thayer told me his post received thousands of responses. It clearly struck a chord. This is a huge pet peeve of mine as well. Like Kreider, I’ve been approached numerous times by publications – including many upstarts – to write a blog for free. Like him, it astounds me that journalism is one field where editors feel no qualms about exploiting labor. There’s no question that so many publications are taking full advantage of the fact that there’s a plethora of inexperienced writers out there, many of whom are eager to see their name in print. And the promise of “exposure” is a great lure. As Kreider does, I also use the offers as an opportunity to enlighten editors on how I earn a respectable living as a freelance journalist and can’t possibly afford to work for free. The one exception is blogging for The Huffington Post, which I do feel reaches a large audience. Still, I oppose in principle their model, which does not compensate bloggers, so I don’t contribute often to the site. I also go a step further. When an editor asks me to research an in-depth article and offers a meager amount of money, I don’t hesitate to turn them down. I let them what a fair rate is for such an article, written by an experienced writer, I know that my responses often fall on deaf ears, as there are plenty of other writers out there happy for the work. I was intrigued by a recent discussion of freelancing on the Diane Rehm Show, which discussed a freelancers union. It will take some formal measure like this to get freelancers to unite and challenge the slave labor trend.