Are newsrooms the new starving garrets?

Antique Typewritter
Image by amos1766 via Flickr

I thought as a writer you could just get paid to write

I heard that phrase in the cafe to day as I was working on lectures for next week. It was a small group trying to get their heads round arts council funding and realising that despite all the agreements in place for minimum fees the money doesn’t match the reality.

It was obviously a frustrating reality for some of the group who realised that they can’t just get paid for what they do without getting involved in all the other aspects. You can’t just write the play. You have to involve actors and put the play on. A writer can’t exist in a vacuum

I felt really sorry for them.

It’s clear that the shrinking pot of money and the way the funding worked was forcing them to compromise at the expense of the professional standards (at least professional standard rates). Just because it’s the arts it doesn’t mean that you should do it for free.

It made me think about journalism.

It echoed a phrase I have heard repeatedly over the last few weeks: “people will pay for good writing” .It was always in the context of paywalls – the latest idea in funding journalism – and in my opinion its one the emptiest phrases I have heard in a while. The reality is that good writing, on its own, is not enough. There are other actors on the journalism stage now and  everyone needs to be writing to involve them.

The solution for the group in the cafe was to scale back on performances and start the painful process of finding match funding and sponsorship to offset the cost.  Key to that was the relevance to the community. The Police, council and other organisations are looking to fund writers and creatives who get in the heart of the community.  The idea that all the money would come from above is well and truly dead.  Much as the writers wanted the distance they couldn’t have it.

Sound familiar?

Are paywalls our arts council? Are the community our match funding? I don’t know.

One thing is certain. The reality of how we pay for this doesn’t match our professional expectations and definitions. Much as we would love it not to change it already has.

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