Saturday, February 21, 2009

Blogging and money

Because it needs to be said.

I can't tell you how many amazing offers I've had to write for outlets that follow it up with, "well, we don't pay."

And at this point, I have to turn them down. Because I have to eat.

I am tired of having to explain this to people. I am tired of having my economic situation be shocking to people who should know better. I am not rich. My family is decently well-off, but I'm almost 30 and they certainly can't afford to support me.

Writing is work. It is work that I've devoted years of my life to doing, to getting better at, and in fact it is bothering me that this piece is not going to be as good as it should be, because I'm angry and I just have to get it out.

Blogging isn't journalism. For a lot of us, blogging is what we do because we have to, because we have to get all these thoughts out and this anger out. There's a reason the liberal blogosphere exploded in the Bush years: because we were all so angry, so sad, and so isolated, often. The blogosphere was a community.

But real journalism, real investigative pieces like this one or this one or these, takes money. It takes more than a few minutes pissed off on my couch. Crowdsourcing and the like will never replace it, because it requires an investment of time and energy, passion and research, real hard work. And the people who do it need to eat the same as I do.

None of us, people like me who believe passionately in journalism, are planning to do it to get rich. Just like we didn't start blogging to make money, contrary to recent idiots' statements about blogs being a business. Because let's face it, blogs don't make money. The things that make money are sites like the Huffington Post, which I won't read partly because it's friggin' annoying, but partly because they don't pay their writers. And I'm tired of it.

I knocked this post out in 20 minutes, start to finish. I wrote a paid piece that took me probably 15-20 hours over the course of several days to report, write, stress over and edit, because I did individual interviews, background research--and still, that wasn't the kind of reporting I want to do.

News isn't dying--the existence of the blogosphere is proof of that. The problem is that actual reporting is dying and being replaced by commentary, whether that be pundits like Pat racist asshole Buchanan getting paid to sit on their pasty white asses and bloviate about topics about which they know nothing (like a recent commenter at Obsidian Wings noted) or bloggers who feel compelled to respond to each individual news story (and I'm as guilty as the rest of us).

Or it's being replaced by so-called citizen journalism, which is great as a democratizing influence and to get the few overpaid assholes in the pundit class humble, but has huge gaping holes because it relies once again on self-motivating people. Do you think the woman in that Mother Jones story I linked above has the time or the resources or anything else to be doing "citizen journalism" and telling her own story? No. She's more worried, once again, about whether or not she can eat.

So I'm sorry, but I am not going to write for free for your blog or your website, no matter whether we're friends or you have more traffic than me or whatever. I love Alterdestiny and I'm not going anywhere, and I value and treasure the blogosphere and what it's given me and done to shape my opinions over the past four or five years.

That whole "blogosphere as digital colonialism" pseudo-intellectual condescending drivel can eff right off, but there was one valid point to it and it's that there is still a very real economic barrier to this shit. I have to eat, and so I don't have time to spend running around the blogosphere dropping links and getting my name out there, and so the name that I so desperately need to build if I'm going to ever make a living as a writer--the ONLY thing I've ever really wanted to do--it goes largely unknown. And there are people who have far less free time and access than I do, with my grad assistantship and my new Mac laptop.

And so. I don't have any solutions. I wish I did, but if I had 'em, I wouldn't have to write this in the first damn place.