NYTimes Sunday review: 1) Don’t write for free and 2) the status of objective reporting

I do note the irony that I am not paying this writer to use part of his story about people who don’t want to pay writers:

NOT long ago, I received, in a single week, three (3) invitations to write an original piece for publication or give a prepared speech in exchange for no ($0.00) money. As with stinkbugs, it’s not any one instance of this request but their sheer number and relentlessness that make them so tiresome. It also makes composing a polite response a heroic exercise in restraint.

People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing. They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it. “Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors…” is how the pertinent line usually starts. But just as often, they simply omit any mention of payment…

I’ve been trying to understand the mentality that leads people who wouldn’t ask a stranger to give them a keychain or a Twizzler to ask me to write them a thousand words for nothing… I spent 20 years and wrote thousands of pages learning the trivial craft of putting sentences together. My parents blew tens of thousands of 1980s dollars on tuition at a prestigious institution to train me for this job. They also put my sister the pulmonologist through medical school, and as far as I know nobody ever asks her to perform a quick lobectomy — doesn’t have to be anything fancy, maybe just in her spare time, whatever she can do would be great — because it’ll help get her name out there.

How to write a news story when you also write a column: Get it right! From the Public Editor

MOST of the time, Michael Powell writes the Gotham column for the news pages of The Times, in which his liberal politics — that’s his own description — may be understood, though not made explicit.

But occasionally, the veteran reporter turns his attention to a larger, investigative article, as with one published this month on the front page. It told of how a case accusing law-enforcement officials of misconduct in a small New Jersey town was quashed, reportedly because of political influence. The main target of the indictment, according to the article, was a political ally of the state’s governor, Chris Christie, a nationally prominent Republican running for re-election.

After the article appeared, I received a letter of complaint from Michael Drewniak, the governor’s spokesman. His objections are to this specific article, but they raise larger questions that I found worth considering.

Journalism is changing drastically, and the once-prized quality of objectivity is increasingly dismissed by some as outdated and pointless. Journalists like Glenn Greenwald or Laura Poitras, who both worked with Edward J. Snowden in publishing revelations about government surveillance, are proud, rather than apologetic, about their passionate advocacy on matters of civil liberties. So Mr. Drewniak’s questions present an opportunity for discussion.


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