Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Difference Between A Writer and A Columnist

This may be preaching to the choir since most of the people who read this blog are in the writing industry, but I have to say it amazes me the amount of people who don't know or understand the difference between an editorial and an article.

Non-media types often comment to me "that paper is so liberal, didn't you see the editorial by XYZ?" I'll admit that simple comment has the ability to bring forth a deluge of words from me about misconceptions and generalizations about the industry and journalists. Just because an editorial board is liberal, the majority are, doesn't mean the article content is all liberal with a set agenda.

It's simple. The editorial board is allowed to take any stance they want on an issue but that has nothing to do with the article content in the paper. I sat in on many editorial board meetings at a major paper and watched the board members debate what take they would have on a particular issue. (Columnists are much the same, only they aren't caged in by the general feeling/opinion of a board. They get to make up their own opinion and write about it.) This, however, is not the way articles are written. A reporter talks to the sources, reads background information from press releases and other articles and then writes a piece, and if they are a good journalist those pieces are devoid of any opinion on the matter.

So, when people (like this piece) try to call the bluff on columnists like Nicholas Kristof for his column on boycotting Bing; it just gets me mad. He's a columnist. He's supposed to call for action and present his personal opinion. That's what the NYT pays him for. They don't pay him to write neutral articles. Plus anyone looking at this column can see the bold OPINION title sitting at the top of the page, just in case.

Last thing I'll say about this issue... If you are a reader of Kristof's column you'll know that he generally writes about world issues and focuses a lot on injustices. The Bing piece fits perfectly into his normal content.

What do you think? Is he overstepping his columnist position by calling for readers not to use Bing?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Revamping My Mindset

The last post I penned on here was in September - practically an eternity when it comes to blog writing. I know. But in the last several months I had some major freelancing drama to deal with, which included rethinking my way of handling writing and editing gigs. And at the same time I've been working on my totally-fashion related blog ModlyChic trying to build that up, gain an audience and post fun meaningful content.

But on to the freelancing side of life...

This fall I needed to make a very difficult decision about compensation and brand loyalty. I wrote and edited a publication that I loved. I agreed with the mission of the publication, had been involved with it since its inception and grew to love all the people I worked with and the readers we connected to. I helped grow the brand and became heavily involved in its social media (a personal interest). Sounds like a perfect working environment - right? Well it was. And if I had my choice I would freelance for that pub exclusively for the rest of my life.

But in October I walked away from the whole thing. Freelancers, myself included, write a lot about demanding fair compensation for work delivered. Too often we settle for jobs that give us little fiscal benefit. And while writing is not all about the monetary reward we can achieve it does have a large part to play in the ability for us to succeed in the business. This job paid me roughly the equivalent of $3 an article, which does not include the time spent on social media. The low pay was something I willingly did at the beginning of my freelancing career, but something I began to realize wouldn't benefit me much in the long run.

Unfortunately, since I am close to the people behind the publication I know that since it is a start-up the money just isn't there to pay me more. They aren't holding out on me, they don't have the funds. So after an intense, nearly month-long debate I resigned my freelance position and determined not to work for such low pay again.

I'll be honest. The first couple weeks was total torture. All I wanted to do was write and edit for them again. I saw potential stories every where. Started writing articles and blog entries several times before realizing they had no place to be published. Eventually, the newness of the resignation wore off and I realized that it was one of the best choices I made this year.

Now I'm moving on to new projects, new publications, and new business schemes. 2010 is looking bright. Stay tuned for updates on the new gigs and the lessons I'm learning this time around.