writing, labor, and cold hard cash (part 1)

The simplest way I can describe this issue: when people make something, they put a lot of work into that something.  If that person wants to give away their something for free, they have every right to.  I know a lot of artists who have given away their junk for free.  They’re definitely allowed to do so.

But if you’re using someone else’s work to make money for yourself, that’s probably not okay.

In Internetlandia, this has been a big point of discussion.  In Buzzfeed-era journalism, it becomes a major point of contention.  Is someone else’s content okay for you to use as journalistic fodder?

In my opinion?  Not really.  I am sick to death of reading or hearing news stories that are really only glorified twitter screencaps.  I crap you not, I happened upon a blog the other day that was — bear with me here — a blog about a facebook status someone wrote.  Not even kidding.  I had read the aforementioned facebook status; it was an extremely eloquent short essay about the situation that poor Jessica Duggar finds herself in and how we have to do better by our girls.  I even liked it.

But someone then essentially copied the entire text of said status, wrote a couple sentences of commentary, and published it on their blog.  Maybe as a “let me draw your attention to this”, but seriously.  That’s not writing.  That’s not journalism.  That’s not anything.  That’s glorified Pinterest.

It even becomes a point of contention when it comes to quoting people sometimes.  When you are writing something, anything of a journalistic nature, you have to ask questions.  You have to get quotes.  That’s what that game is all about.  I’ve been doing a freelance gig that requires a lot of quote getting, and I’ve been doing it for five years now.  Part of me feels guilty about just using a lot of what other people say, but sometimes, it’s okay to write down what people say.  If you’re interviewing them, and you come up with good questions, then yes, you’re doing the work.  Thanks to the magic of mirror sites, I have an old interview with my good friend Gina that I published in my college paper & also wrote up online.

And in Internetlandia sometimes, you will find people who you’d like to get a quote from.  Most of the time, you won’t hear back from them.  At all.  Ever.  Sometimes, you’ll get an enthusiastic response and even a thank you.  And sometimes, that person will curse your name.  They may even do it publicly.  It might even sting a bit.

But guess what’s the best course of action?  You demonstrate your own creativity and you figure out how to write something else.

If you’re a good writer, you’ll figure out what that something else is.  And if not, you’ll practice until you do figure it out.  But of course, practice doesn’t pay, unless you practice like a crazy person and then also get lucky and have your practice pay off.

But we’ll get into that in part II, when we discuss musicians, labor, intellectual property, and getting paid!

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