Show Me the Money

So, how does an idealistic journalist fed-up with the failings of for-profit media put food on the table in the post-consolidation, post-merger, post-layoff San Francisco Bay Area?

Freelance, baby. And, sadly, it is not possible to pay a mortgage or support a family as a ronin journalist. The fees are laughably small. My breatkthrough coverage of polybrominated diphenyl ethers in the San Francisco Bay, written freelance for after I resigned, took a month to research and write and netted me a whopping $400. What a joke.

Currently, I’m writing and editing white papers for FAS.research, an Austrian social network analysis company that recently opened a branch in San Francisco. They develop campaign, marketing and communications strategies for globe-straddling corporations of various descriptions.

A headhunter has also been knocking recently, seeking to place me as a “social media editor” for financial services companies in San Francisco.

Modesty, already in short supply on these pages, forbids me from declaiming the fees I get for that kind of work. But suffice it to say, freelance journalism, and even the average newsroom staff position, doesn’t come anywhere near what these people offer.

And that’s the tragedy of American journalism in a nutshell.

3 thoughts on “Show Me the Money

  1. Has there ever been a golden period of journalism where social-progressive freelance journalism paid really well, or well enough to buy a house with?

  2. I heard that A. C. Thompson left the Guardian for the SF Weekly so as to do exactly that. Don’t know what became of it. But the truth is, the real money for journalism is on staff, or, in magazines, where the fees can better. It still is very competitive, and tends to top out at $1/word, which is good, but still lags for city living.

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