‘A day in the life of a freelance journalist’

In which Nate Thayer recounts how the global editor for prestigious monthly magazine The Atlantic offered to republish a blog post of his, but wasn’t willing to pay him anything for it. The draw, she said, was the exposure.

As I’ve told people many times since I started freelancing, exposure doesn’t feed my kids.

The public response to Thayer’s exposure has caused The Atlantic’s editor in chief, James Bennet, to post an explanation:

The case involving Nate Thayer is unusual. We did not ask him to report and write an original piece for us, but we did ask if he’d be interested in posting a condensed version of an article he had already published elsewhere, which we would have done with full credit to the original publisher. We rarely do this outside our established partnerships, but we were enthusiastic about bringing Thayer’s work to a larger audience – an outcome, I guess, we have now, backhandedly, achieved. We’re sorry we offended him.

I’ll let Harlan Ellison have the last (NSFW) word.



  • http://mangochut.net/ mangochutney

    I commented on this topic yesterday, but man this video snippet of Ellsion is superb, thanks for that Peter.

  • John David

    You’re sorry you offended him Mr. Bennet!

    You offend my intelligence with your bullshit excuse & yet you still wouldn’t do the right thing & offer Mr. Thayer the measly going rate your industry pays writers in general for a piece he wrote that you wanted to publish in your magazine that you would have ostensibly profited from.

    Something for nothing, eh Bennet! That’s what your “explanation” says to me.

    I’m only sorry we can’t unleash Ellison on your ass & let him rip you a new one, as only he can, you douche bag!

  • Steven Fisher

    “We’re sorry we offended” is the second worst thing you can say, only after “We’re sorry if we offended.”

    It’s pure blame shifting. “It’s not our fault we did this thing, though we’re sorry we got caught and it bothered you.”

  • Mother Hydra

    GAH how shameful! The same thing as saying “I’m sorry you took it that way.” Which I also can’t stand. Intellectual dishonesty and blame-shifting are de rigeuer for this dinosauric industry. How pathetic, I can’t wait to walk over the ashes.

  • http://twitter.com/colinmat Colin Mattson

    Here’s a novel idea: If you’re “out of freelance money right now,” don’t try to, uh, “hire” freelancers right now.

  • http://twitter.com/CoreyTamas Joel In Real Life

    Musicians have to deal with a lot of this, too.

    “No, we don’t pay you. Actually, we’re going to need you guys in the band to order at least two drinks each okay?” – actual thing I’ve been told

  • http://twitter.com/jeffzugale Jeff Zugale

    R. Stevens (www.dieselsweeties.com) has the best quote about this kind of thing:

    “People die of exposure.”

  • Manuel

    This amazing exchange was tweeted yesterday by David Carr and I tried to get Richard Lawson of The Atlantic Wire to retweet it. Obviously, he didn’t. ;-)