Here’s the other thing about how writers are paid.

Typewriter keyboardThe current discussion/mudslinging about how writers/journalists/reporters (etc) are or are not paid is, I think, important, enlightening, and long overdue. I made my own wee contribution here; here’s National Treasure Charlie Pierce saying it better. I agree with every single thing Mr. Pierce wrote, up until his last six words — I can’t tell The Atlantic to “go fk itself,” because I don’t think The Atlantic is the problem, and as one of the few magazines out there with a working business model and growing staff, it may well be part of the solution.

Having said that, whenever we have this discussion, there’s this one wee thing that no one ever seems to mention, and it’s something that actually has an enormous impact on any writer’s bank balance: With every passing year, the writer is expected to do more.

Not more writing (eta: actually, in the era of ever-updating blogs, we’re also expected to write more, now that I think of it), and God knows not more reporting (“reporting” might require plane tickets or recording equipment, and those, God knows, cost money), but more of all the work surrounding the final product.

In the course of slashing budgets and caring more for corporate bottom lines than for content produced and/or what the advent of the Internet might mean for same, news and opinion outlets have hacked away at their editorial and graphics departments, their marketing and their fact-checking — virtually everything and anything that supports a writer/reporter in his or her work and produces a highly-polished and attractive final product.

Writers have always had to market ourselves, of course, particularly when starting out, but nothing like today, when it’s often considered part and parcel of the gig to not only produce copy, but also to blog about producing copy, tweet/FB/tumbl about the copy you produced, and engage with commenters over their opinions of the copy you produced, all while working on your next piece.

Writers have also always been asked to turn in clean copy — the cleaner, the better — but we used to write safe in the knowledge that copy editors would catch the typos, and editors would catch the sentences that went nowhere. These days, far too many Serious Outlets are content to let writers fend for themselves, typos and unintelligible run-on sentences be damned.

Writers have also always been expected to actually do their work and be as rigorously truthful as humanly possible — but again, no one is perfect, and some writers are lying assclowns. So, you know: Fact-checking, the process by which a Serious Outlet would make at least a minimal effort to determine that the writer had not Gotten It All Wrong was a pretty important task. In the current environment, far too many Serious Outlets expect writers to fact-check on their own (and, one presumes, to give the managing editor a head’s up if they’re going to lie).

Finally, in addition to reporting, writing, promoting ourselves day-in/day-out, and typing and fact-checking without a net, there are also a long list of outlets (less Serious than some, but still Kinda Serious) that expect their writers to find illustration for their work, as well. AND MAKE SURE IT ISN’T COPYRIGHTED.

And, of course, the many, many of us who aren’t on staff are also doing all of our own bookkeeping and if we are lucky enough to be paid? It’s on us to remind the Serious Outlet to fork over our dough. Often over and over and over again. Because accounting departments were slashed, too.

All of these things take a tremendous amount of time and energy, and sometimes financial resources. All of it comes from my bottom line.

And all of it is part and parcel of the modern day write-for-free model everywhere present in the publishing world.

In The Atlantic again: Troy Davis and the reality of doubt.

I am proud to say that I have placed another essay about Troy Davis in, where it will hopefully reach more eyes and do more good. I’m beside myself, and all I can do is write. “All I have is a voice/To undo the folded lie… No one exists alone;/Hunger allows no choice/To the citizen or the police;/We must love one another or die.”

Again, here’s the top – please click through to read the rest, and give The Atlantic the love it really, really deserves.

“Whether the trial witnesses against [Troy Davis] were lying then or are lying now, by fighting against his requested relief Georgia is saying that its interest in the finality of its capital judgments is more important than the accuracy of its capital verdicts.”

Andrew Cohen, who has served as chief legal analyst and legal editor for CBS News, wrote those words regarding death row inmate Troy Davis on yesterday. They come near the end of a vitally important essay in which Cohen spells out “how far we have to go toward fair and accurate capital punishment in America.” I read them over and over, because as a person who has been advocating for Davis’s clemency bid, they struck me as frighteningly true.

Writing about Troy Davis for The Atlantic online.

If you’re new to these parts, I’d love it if you took a moment to look around — you’ll find discussions of Steve Burns (yes, the guy from Blues Clues), and Israel/Palestine, and a really cool map, and Star Trek geekery, and misogyny, and all kinds of stuff.

I am beyond pleased and deeply humbled to say that The Atlantic online accepted an essay that I wrote this morning about the Troy Davis case. As a language nerd and something of a bluestocking by nature, the idea that my name is anywhere associated with The Atlantic blows my mind. The fact that the piece in question may help Troy Davis in some small way kind of brings me to my knees.

Here’s the top of the piece, but please click through to read the rest — I want to give The Atlantic a lot of love today, and would be so happy for you to read the whole thing. And if you haven’t yet had a chance to act to help Mr. Davis in his clemency bid, please do so (click here for links, etc) — there are only six days left until his clemency hearing, only eight until his execution date.

Explaining the Death Penalty to My Children

“How does it work?” my eight-year-old asked last Saturday morning . “Will he just stand there and have to — let them kill him?”

She was asking me about Troy Davis, a man on Georgia’s death row who is slated to be executed on September 21.

There’s been much talk about Davis in our house, so the night before, I’d tried to explain: Found guilty of killing a police officer, Davis was sentenced to death in 1991, but in the meantime, the case against him has fallen apart.

Seven out of the nine people who said it was him have “recanted” or changed their testimony,  I told my daughter and her older brother, explaining what that meant. “What about the other two?” my son asked.

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