'Truly shabby'

Dateline: Sat 25 Jun 2011

Here is an email from the Indianapolis Star that was sent last week to various individuals who in the past may have contributed freelance material to the paper. or expressed an interest in doing so.

"Are you still doing freelance work?
"The Indianapolis Star is looking for stringers."
The person who received this email shared the following appalled response:

"Can you believe this?????

"I'm still in shock. I'm going to respond because I want to see what they are wanting covered out of curiosity.

"I don't feel comfortable about taking any assignments, though, because it sort of feels like a stab in the back to those people who were just let go this week. ... But I had to let you know about this. This is truly shabby."

Sometimes an email is worth 1,000 words. Or, in this case, 62 jobs...that's how many people were laid off by Gannett at the Star.

If only Dan Carpenter could/would write a column about this social injustice....and speaking of injustice, can anyone give information on how much freelancers are paid? I think the bloggers who covered communities for the Star were paid like $5 a blog post. OK, maybe $10-$15.

Figures, anybody?


Robert Knilands [unverified] said:

User was banned for obnoxious trolling and the comment was removed. --Admin

2011-06-25 19:57:45

hendy [Member] said:

AOL is getting lots of unpaid stringers in their scheme to use local bloggers, unpaid, to do local content. Why should The Star pay when they can get bloggers to write for free?

This conundrum has been going on for a while. They want content managed by those that want to be famous for their coverage of say, McCordsville. Really. I'm not kidding.

So, in their infinite wisdom, to Indianapolis Star Executives out on the golf course said to each other-- hey let's throw a few bones to these dweebs-- they'll do it for a pittance. And for every job, there's a bunch of hungry hacks out there hoping that this might lead to an FTE Job! Wow! Brilliant!

2011-06-25 22:01:09

Robert Knilands [unverified] said:

User was banned for obnoxious trolling and the comment was removed. --Admin

2011-06-25 22:42:33

Seneca [Member] said:

". . . Somebody Else should do Something."

Except thee and me?

2011-06-26 05:26:00

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Anyone notice that the two biggest stories about Indiana-- the court decisions about Planned Parenthood and immigration-- on Saturday's front page, were both AP bylined?

Major Hoosier news, reported by the wire service.

Thus the Star marches on toward irrelevance.

2011-06-26 07:35:13

Rita Rose [unverified] said:

When we were doing the community blogs we got $25 a week for a minimum of 3 blogs, so 8 bucks apiece. For that paltry amount, I never did more than 3. We did not get paid mileage. I turned in photo expenses on my taxes. Then, when they redesigned the home page back in September 2010, they "forgot" to tell us we were no longer needed. I found out because one of the other bloggers called me. When I called the blog administrator (someone I had never heard of) he said oops, well, meant to call you. My last freelance article in East Indy Star ran in Dec. And it probably WILL be my last.

2011-06-26 09:00:27

Rita Rose [unverified] said:

I was paid $50 for freelance stories, $25 extra for photos. No taxes taken out.

2011-06-26 09:02:29

Robert Knilands [unverified] said:

User was banned for obnoxious trolling and the comment was removed. --Admin

2011-06-26 11:28:15

ruthholl [Member] said:

I imagine Rita understands self-employment taxes, etc.
A lot of us have gotten an education in that area since retiring or leaving the paper. And a good accountant can be immensely helpful, altho, of course, with the IRS, each person is responsible for her/his own understanding of the issues.
Thanks, all.

2011-06-26 11:42:56

Rita Rose [unverified] said:

Gee, Robert, thanks for your ASSumptions. Of course I know how the freelance pay works, but not everyone reading this blog is a freelancer. Ruth asked for numbers and I gave them, pointing out, in the process, that we aren't paid much to begin with and then we pay the taxes on it down the road.

Funny how you manage to always argue with people on this board. Go find something better to do.

2011-06-26 12:37:28

Sick to Death of Robert Knilands [unverified] said:

I imagine next he'll lambast Rita for splitting the infinitive.

Take your toys and go home, Kniland.


2011-06-26 13:01:37

Robert Knilands [unverified] said:

User was banned for obnoxious trolling and the comment was removed. --Admin

2011-06-26 13:37:18

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

After I became disabled several years ago, I did regular freelance work (sometimes two major pieces a week and some Op-Ed commentaries) for The Star (newspaper) and was paid a whopping $65 per piece with no mileage or expense reimbursement.

Basically I was doing the work of a full-time worker and getting paid a fraction of what they made.

Then, I was told the rate was being cut to $50. So I told them I could make more money delivering the paper and found other things to do with my time and energy.

What they do is basically a version of outsourcing. Pay people to write for peanuts and provide no health insurance or any other benefits and no expense reimbursements. Good gig for them.

A friend of mine, a multi-award-winning journalist who had just left the job she had at another newspaper, was contacted by The Star to do stinger work and she told The Star's caller, "I've already been screwed enough in this profession, so I'm not going to get screwed by you people, too."

Kind of sums it up, I guess.

2011-06-26 13:46:02

ruthholl [Member] said:

A wise person said, "nobody ever wins an argument on the internet."

2011-06-26 14:07:04

ruthholl [Member] said:

Whitebeard and Rita, thanks for providing some insight into the measly amounts paid freelancers.
I think it has not been uncommon for Gannett to actually reduce pay for outsourced material that was arranged when the Pulliams ran the paper.
Does anybody remember the contract they drew up for freelance work? They basically forbade freelancers to even come into the building to file columns, etc.; it was designed to be punitive, but cloaked in legalese (like, we cannot assume liability, we can't be sharing our valuable resources --- computers etc. -- that staff use with you outsiders).
I also remember when office supplies were locked up, (under Gannett) and every pencil/pen/notebook had to be counted and accounted for, practically.

2011-06-26 14:25:09

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

That is a wise person, Ruth. Written messages on the net are a pretty stilted way to communicate, really.

No chance to look someone in the eye and ask, "Now, did I understand you to mean....?" Or, no chance to follow-up a misunderstood statement with, "No, I don't think you understand what I'm saying, "here's what I really meant by that...."

No chance for tension-breaking smiles and back-patting and friendly inconsequential banter.

Most people want/need to be affirmed and validated and not much of that goes on in public internet forums.

So much of the dialogue comes across like Moses coming down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments - whether people mean it that way or not.

It's amazing when you can write something that you think is so non-confrontational, but yet people answer with scathing, angry responses. Somehow I guess you push somebody's button when you had no way of imagining anyone would have that particular sensibility.

For me, I do this writing because my physical situation limits me in actual face-to-face intelligent dialogue with people. I try to keep in mind that I should respond to people in writing as I would respond to them face-to-face. I fail quite a bit in trying to do this - especially when I'm not feeling well physically and become irritable, but at least it is my aim.

I do very much enjoy reading all of the opinions in this forum - even the ones that aren't universally understood or appreciated.

It's kind of like when Clinton said he would make major appointments based upon all of the diversity in this country.

I think diversity is always a good thing and no less so on these forums.

Just my two cents.

2011-06-26 14:40:42

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

"Does anybody remember the contract they drew up for freelance work? They basically forbade freelancers to even come into the building to file columns, etc.

Ruth, my experience when I was freelancing for them was that I would be called into The Star's facility from time-to-time for various kinds of meetings and briefings. I wasn't treated badly by management, but I wasn't treated well either. More like feeling taken for granted and not particularly valuable. But, maybe the Star's full-timers felt that way, too.

2011-06-26 14:52:16

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Back in the dark ages when I worked for The Star, there was no pay for maternity leave. I was told, "but we have the best maternity benefit of all! When your kid grows up, we'll hire him."

Of course that was back in the Pulliam days, when we got engraved silver cups for our little ones, and could spend weekends with the family at the Fourth Estate.

I never thought I'd be nostalgic for all that (but Gannett has a way of concentrating memory).

2011-06-26 15:12:12

Robert Knilands [unverified] said:

User was banned for obnoxious trolling and the comment was removed. --Admin

2011-06-26 15:18:46

Sick to Death of Robert Knilands [unverified] said:

Dear Lord: Please make me as wise and intelligent and kind and wonderful as Robert Knilands. My life is so empty because there is only one of him on Earth.

2011-06-26 16:34:52

Robert Knilands [unverified] said:

User was banned for obnoxious trolling and the comment was removed. --Admin

2011-06-26 17:29:36

ruthholl [Member] said:


2011-06-26 17:30:07

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I'll try to steer clear of Knnilands, whom I do not know, but with whom I've got no particular argument, save his generally sour blog disposition:

I was offered a Star freelance "contract" two years ago. It was sent directly at the instruction of Dennis, I think. It included a one-page "Agreement" that I only discarded a few weeks ago--how I wish I'd saved it. I telephoned the manager in charge of the freelance submissions--cannot remember her name--and she asked for a sample or two. She sent them back with improper grammar edits, and I tried to point out one of her errors (plural possessives). Her response was downright shitty. I gave up.

It basically asked for submissions which THEY would then own forever, and which I could not sell or use anywhere else. The proprietary language was abusive and overbearing. I told them to pound salt.

Oh yeah--it was $50 per published submission.

2011-06-26 18:00:32

Robert Knilands [unverified] said:

User was banned for obnoxious trolling and the comment was removed. --Admin

2011-06-26 18:17:29

Sick to Death of Robert Knilands [unverified] said:

For heaven's sake... she was amen-ing me, not you. And LOL, you didn't catch the fact that I misspelled your name in that "lambast" post. Some copy editor you are! And Kniland, every time you post here you reinforce your Internet reputation as a scourge and squatter of blogs, with nothing useful to say. Go away.

2011-06-26 18:44:44

Robert Knilands [unverified] said:

User was banned for obnoxious trolling and the comment was removed. --Admin

2011-06-26 20:10:19

Sick to Death of Robert Knilands [unverified] said:

Oh my God it won't go away. It's the Blob! Somebody get a fire extinguisher!

2011-06-26 20:53:33

Terry [unverified] said:

Now I think better of my freelance fees after reading these posts. Mine started out modestly -- maybe $100 for a cover package including sidebars -- but when a new features section launched I got a raise as well as a regular commitment for multiple stories. I actually had fun with it. After a few months I was asked to take on another regular item, but was dismayed when I learned my fee would be less than the outgoing writer's. Then I was in a major car accident, so I had to take a break anyway from freelancing.

Are you going to open a new thread re the Sunday Ryerson col? Hiccups indeed.

2011-06-26 21:35:17

ruthholl [Member] said:

What struck you about Ryerson's puffery? I have some thoughts and sure, it's good fodder.
Dang, you made the big bucks.
Back in the Pulliam days, we all got $100 Christmas bonuses and $100 summer bonuses, too (full-time people, anyhow).
Some grateful chump said, sarcastically, "Gonna go buy that suit at Robert Hall!"
Next pay period, of course, they took the taxes out. Not much left for the tie.
I'll reread Ryerson's comments. Thanks for the suggestion.

2011-06-26 22:12:26

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

I freelanced for years, off and on, in the toughest of markets, New York, as artist, writer, marketing consultant. And learned that (a) as a freelancer you are Self Employed and had better learn the rules, and (b) freelancing is not an adequate substitute for Regular Employment, unless you bring a particular specialty to the table (as I did).

I am astonished at the dirt cheap rates paid by the Star for freelance pieces. Wait- no I'm not. A local popular published author who writes columns with as much wit and insight as any I've read in national pubs, is paid $35 per weekly piece by Gannett. But not much changes- my Better Half was offered $65 for bona fide stories filed from the Indiana hinterlands in the Pulliam era; she declined.

2011-06-26 22:20:51

Seneca [Member] said:

Interesting how people who scream "tolerance" and "diversity" at every turn can't tolerate differing and diverse opinions from their own.

Any opinion that contradicts the usual whining on this blog is treated with scorn and contempt.

Give 'em hell, Robert Knilands, give 'em hell.

2011-06-27 05:05:34

Seneca [Member] said:

As for the whiners, get a grip and get on with your life. If you spent half as much time looking for gainful employment as you do whining on this blog, you might have been employed a long time ago.

2011-06-27 05:29:47

indykjsharp [unverified] said:

What struck me about Ryerson's column was the disingenuousness of his statement that The Star "would be around for a long time." War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.

Besides, what does it matter that it's still around if continues to lose relevance in this community?

2011-06-27 06:51:47

hendy [Member] said:

One big happy family here ;)

Ruth, should I point to freelance websites or is it irrelevant here?

2011-06-27 08:10:48

ComputerWheels [Member] said:

Ms. Cynical, that part about silver cups really caught my eye. I hadn't known the Pulliams were still doing that.

When I was born, my dad worked at what I think was the first Pulliam paper, the Lebanon Reporter, and I still have a silver cup from my birth!

So I'm amazed.

2011-06-27 10:05:53

ComputerWheels [Member] said:

Hendy, sure, send the freelance web sites you know about to Ruth. I'm sure she'll post them and we can add more if we know others, and hopefully it'll help some of the newest Gannett victims.

And Robert Knilands, I don't know you, but please go away. Your mean posts aren't worth anyone's time.

2011-06-27 10:10:32

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Computer: Please don't feed the trolls.

2011-06-27 12:57:17

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Hendy, please do post those web sites you mentioned.

I don't know Ryerson. Never met him. Does he really believe what he writes or is he, as Bob Dylan once said of himself, "just a song-and-dance man"?

Not a loaded question. Just honestly wondering.

2011-06-27 13:00:18

Anonymous [unverified] said:

Notice the cover of the Star's local section today is entirely written by interns? For shame, Indystar.

I hope the Newspaper Guild challenges the appeal to freelancers and the loss of design and copy desk jobs just as those jobs at the design centers are being posted. Transferring the jobs to the design centers would clearly have violated the outsourcing clause, so they simply "eliminated" the local copy editing jobs and then posted the regional ones. It's still outsourcing and so is the use of freelancers or interns to do work usually done by Guild members.

I hope a fat settlement lies ahead.

2011-06-27 13:08:12

Anonymous [unverified] said:

And Ruth, it's time to block Knilands again. No one here wants to talk about him; more important topics are at hand and he just interferes.

2011-06-27 13:09:59

Robert Knilands [unverified] said:

User was banned for obnoxious trolling and the comment was removed. --Admin

2011-06-27 13:30:53

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Robert, you're probably bringing out the co-dependence in me, but since I'm old enough to be your Dad I thought I might make a comment about your posts.

It is obvious you are a very bright and informed young man and I find many of your posts to have very interesting and informative opinion/information in them.

However, isn't there any way to make your points without cracking down hard on other posters?

I know, I know....you're going to say I'm an anonymous, uninformed coward who has small skill sets and a small brain. And, who knows, you might be right (smile).

We do have something in common in that, for a few years, I used to do copy editing at a newspaper. Man, that was TOUGH duty. I have great respect for skilled copy editors. I was good about catching the big stuff but not-so-good about missing some of the small stuff (typos, etc.).

I would like to continue reading your observations, Bob, as long as they're not primarily about blasting other posters.

Sorry to the folks who will say I am "feeding the troll." But, like I said, it's this codependent thing....

2011-06-27 16:13:02

dc [unverified] said:

"You guys have proved you can't discuss important topics, though. All you do is hide in the shadows and throw rocks."

Hey Rob - how about you discuss your important topics - "without" throwing rocks - are you capable of a post without an insult?

2011-06-27 16:59:50

ruthholl [Member] said:

Hendy, send me the freelance websites and I will post them! Thanks.

2011-06-27 17:36:41

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