...or how to dumb down my trade?
All this week, the Guardian has been giving away booklets on how to write. Fiction, poetry, screenplays... today's free guide was on journalism but you could have forgiven me for thinking it was April the 1st. Granted, even for a hardened old pro like myself there were some handy tips in there. But I feel really pissed off that the Guardian thinks it's fine to spill our professional secrets to wannabes.
It's hard enough for professionals making a freelance living as a journalist these days. Without a portfolio career in which I edit and copywrite, I would have trouble paying the bills. In current times, we are seeing publications close or slash their pagination to save money, leaving fewer outlets to sell articles to. A couple of national newspapers have halved their standard freelance rates within the last fortnight. Papers are making staff redundant, staff who then decide to try freelancing in an already crowded and tough market. And to top it all, more and more across all media platforms content is seen as something that should be cheap or preferably free. Not something produced by skilled and talented writers who deserve just reward.
Loads of people who bought the Guardian today are going to think "I could do that". People with no journalistic training or experience. People who think they can just waltz into a job that is already undervalued and underpaid and underestimated. People who'd be happy to get a byline for free, just to have their name in print.
It's going to be yet another squeeze on our already crushed and struggling to breathe profession.
The cynic in me wonders if this is a deliberate ploy by the Guardian to find yet another way of acquiring cheap or free content for its websites and print editions.
On the other hand, I sincerely hope that every section head, every commissioning editor at the Guardian gets swamped with poorly constructed pitches and unsolicited, badly written articles. They'll soon be as fed up as I am right now. And maybe then the idiots that dreamed this wheeze up will realise that it's much better to actually pay someone who knows what they are doing the going rate for a job well done.