Guardian Comment is Free and freelance writers

Posted on January 15, 2007


The Guardian may be willing to feature new and unknown writers as columnists on its blog platform Comment is Free.

Yes, that’s right, anyone who fancies themselves as a journalist / columnist can now send in their submissions to the Guardian’s blog platform with a real chance that their work will be considered for publication.

Understandably, some commentators are a little concerned about the precedent this sets – where ‘Content is Free’.

It’s still not clear how / if contributors will be paid, but this has been an age old practice. Most of the journalists I know got their break in the nationals by sending in work to a section editor. If it was good enough, they’d get published (and paid) or get some feedback on how it could be improved. No news or features editor is going to ignore a well written, genuinely engaging article just because the writer is unknown.

So why is this worrying? Well, many journalists are concerned by the proliferation of blogs because they believe freelance fees are being driven down. Content may be becoming commoditised now that editors are inundated with quality blog content, much of which can be published for free in return for a name check or link to a bloggers own site.
This may be the case for a site featuring brand new writers each time, but editors will need to attract, and importantly, keep quality writers, be they bloggers who write in their spare time or those who write semi-professionally.
Sure, the way writers are paid will change (e.g. an editor may agree to feature a prominent link to a bloggers own site as payment – thus increasing traffic and improving the bloggers own chances of gaining more online ads), but they will still have to be paid.
As I, and no doubt other editors have found, output from even the keenest of new writers will begin to slow if they feel they’re being exploited / not getting something in return.
Comment is Free is rarely out of the spotlight. This’ll go on and on.
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