The LA Times is reporting on a not-so-secret secret of the media business: that the market for freelance writing has collapsed as a byproduct of the digital economy. We at Newcity have been as guilty as anyone in furthering this trend: our already rock-bottom rates had to be halved in order to survive about five years ago, and we still struggle to pay these new rates on any timely basis. That, in spite of the fact that we rely on freelancers more than ever.
This is a matter of considerable pain and sorrow for us, for we value the writer and artist above all. When we started Newcity as a print publication nearly twenty-four years ago, we had no revenue, no prospects. But we insisted on paying writers something for everything we published from day one, even though it was not unusual for small startups to operate on the efforts of “volunteers.” We were not a charity, and it seemed odd to try and build a business on the backs of folks working for free. (Interns are another matter, since there is a trade of education and career enhancement for their labors, which are defined by their temporary tenure.) Continue reading