Ever Feel Like a Little Gaffer Getting Yelled at by a Princess?

Whenever I see this photo, I think about my first and only year as a freelance journalist. It was almost 15 
Ever feel like a little gaffer
getting yelled at by a
 years ago. I was treated like crap by people I had up on a pedestal. Yet, my experience taught me some valuable life lessons.

We were called freelance writers because the local paper couldn't afford to pay us properly. I was the only one with education or experience, yet I was treated the same as the others, and often, I did all the grunt work, while they got the story, because I was at my real job. (my real job-- they actually told me that. yikes, did I ever not feel like a writer that day.)
First lesson- you start at the bottom, buttercup. 

Honestly, I just wanted to write. I'd never not written. I had a diploma in journalism, it seemed senseless to waste it. So, I worked full time, and did this gophering on the side, taking the abuse weekly.
Second lesson- I'd starve if I relied on writing, yet I had to write.
Now, I have few complaints about the first editor of that paper. He bought every story I wrote for him. He applauded when I stirred up the entire town with the truth about smoking in the local schools. (It was his idea, but he'll deny that to the grave--I took the heat.) He submitted my work nationally because he believed in it. (I won him an award I never saw-- how does that work, eh?) The more letters to the editor he got in complaint about my articles, the happier he was. "You're selling me papers! Now go, get, find out what you can about this lunatic."
Third lesson- People like to read about things that piss them off. Editors like to make money, they care nothing about soiling your good name. (This might not be true for all paper editors, but so far, none have changed my opinion, so the lesson sticks.)

I made 25 bucks a story. I usually turned in one a week. It was a lot of work I did in my spare time. Interview expenses were not refunded. Writing and editing took hours. Yeah, I edited my own work, the owner called himself and editor, but was not. Make sense? 
If my name was going on it, I wanted it to be worthy, so I paid it extra attention.
Fourth lesson- Don't put people with fancy titles on pedestals, they are only human too.

I did this for months. Went in treacherous condemned buildings, got yelled at by angry parents, buttered up by politicians who couldn't remember my name, ignored by a police officer. (It did get me out of a ticket; the minute he saw my name on my driver's licence, I was free to go. I never hounded him again. It was a mutual agreement; I let you go, you let me go.)
Still, it was actually costing me time, money, my good name, and sometimes I risked my life. This couldn't continue.
Then the paper sold. I lasted one month (if that). It was the most horrible month of my life. Not one of my stories was printed. I worked extra hard too.
You see, the new owners had a different approach. They did not like controversy. They wanted peace in the kingdom. I could respect that, but they had few ideas. I was on my own.
If I brought them a story where someone said no comment, they refused to print it. "No need to disrupt the kingdom. This is happily ever after land."
I watched article after article hit the trash. 
Hit the trash. Right in front of me, as if my time was worthless.
I was not paid for a story in the garbage, even if one was their idea. $000.00 Nothing. not a. zip.
They told me people were unhappy with my quotes.
"Ah, you haven't printed anything yet??" I was so stupid to say.
"Of course not. They came in here and wanted to retract their comments. If we have to change your articles, we aren't printing them. You're the reporter, get it right." I was getting it right, I even had it recorded to prove it. I knew how to cover my butt, it was the first rule I learnt. Not my fault people changed their minds, gee, that happens. As the editors it was their call if they ran with the changes or not. I did my job. What did they expect for $25? -- apparently, they expected my to keep these thoughts to myself.
I no longer had paper owners on a pedestal. My opinion of them was in the trash with my articles. zip. I told them to find another writer, I had better things to do with my time, princesses.
Fifth lesson- My time is worth something, respect that princess.

It turned me off freelancing for years. Now I submit an article or editorial a week that I write for my work where I am well paid. The local papers pay me nothing, but get articles, photos, and such, of all the fun things I do in a week. I get my name out there, free advertising for my cultural center, and I get to write.
Sixth lesson- There are other ways to channel my creativity where I don't feel like a little girl getting yelled at by a princess.

Your turn. Ever feel like a little gaffer getting yelled at by a princess? Sucks, eh?


Richard said...

I'm glad you got out of it. You're putting your talent to better use.

HowLynnTime said...

Lol - I love it - but it's funny you felt like it was bad for your name? Isn't that what reporters do? Small towns are such fun - hehehe.

You should have come up with funny articles for them - right up their line - such as "How to line up you trash can on the curb so that it looks beautiful" - cool things about pretty people! - or Fun stuff you can find in a truck stop parking lot! I would have written stuff like that for them - for two months - for my own pure entertainment --- princesses best not mess with the big bad wolf - grin

Tanya Reimer said...

Yeah, me too. Funny things was, it didn't seem so bad at the time. Now I look back and think, how many other young writers are taking this abuse? I would never tolerate that now. Never. Ah, we grow up.

Gen Revelation said...

crazy... I can't really imagine being treated like that. Though I guess no one can really it's one of those things you just have to live through to believe I think.
If someone threw away my work in my face I think it might have been a fight, but I'm notoriously aggressive when it comes to my time and effort. You are amazing for dealing with it for a year. I couldn't do a month I think.

Vicki Tremper said...

Great post! I think you're right that we take all kinds of abuse when we're young because we don't yet know how to stand up for ourselves and our work. Growth and experience count for a lot. I'm glad you're now in a healthier work environment.


Lynda R Young said...

I'm so glad I never took the journalist route...

Anonymous said...

Amazing advice! I really want to know why that princess looks so mad. . . that's not nice. ;) Luckily, I don't feel like there are any princesses yelling at me. But if I do, I'm walking away.

AllMyPosts said...

Well, thanks for telling me all this stuff.

I was seriously about to consider freelancing.. I just dunno how to start!!!

I want to make some bucks writing and probably someday become a full time writer!!! (Ah !! dreams agian)

with warm regards