Rick Reilly of ESPN gave a speech at a convocation for a journalism school and spouted off comments that all bloggers should be interested in. Essentially, he said that we are saps if we write for free. However, I'll let you decide for yourself.
"When you get out there, all I ask is that you: DON'T WRITE FOR FREE! Nobody asks strippers to strip for free, doctors to doctor for free or professors to profess for free. Have some pride! What you know how to do now is a skill that 99.9 percent of the people don't have. If you do it for free, they won't respect you in the morning. Or the next day. Or the day after that. You sink everybody's boat in the harbor, not just yours. So just DON'T!"
Several thoughts are rushing through my head when I read this. The unabashed ego in me is screaming yeah, preach on brother. Then, I remember that Rick Reilly has the cushiest job in journalism. He has an iron clad five year contract with ESPN for 17 million dollars. All he has to do for that money is write a monthly column in ESPN the Magazine and appear on ESPN every now and again with something pithy.
Let's ignore those facts for the time being and focus on the meat of the message. First, there is the logical fallacy that all things are created equal. You can measure whether a doctor is successful or not. You can measure if a stripper is successful or not. You can measure if a professor is successful or not. If they suck they won't be doing it for very long.
The notion that 99.9% of the country couldn't do what I am doing right now is beyond arrogant. It's flat out wrong. This country was built on the free exchange of ideas. Notice I didn't say expensive trade of ideas or even ideas for sale. There are a lot of writers out there and not all of them are good. I have to have the faith that if I am good at what I do then someone will take notice and pay me. In point of fact, I'm already at that point.
Naturally, our benevolent host should not read anything into this column, There are other benefits to writing even when you aren't paid. Through the forum here and on other sites, I now have numerous people I count as friends that I wouldn't have had without the forum. No matter your religion, we are all called to share our talents with the world. Of course, I'm willing to bet that some people would question my talent.
Of course, people will question why we (in general) allow ourselves to be exploited. My answer would be that you are only being exploited when you are unaware that you are being manipulated or are powerless to prevent it. The reality is that the best writers realize it is a symbiotic relationship. They are using our talents to get free content. We are using their venues for free exposure. We at the Hurricane are in neither department. We use it as a personal outlet. Either way, it is a pretty pleasant exchange.
Now, if someone comes offering me 17 million dollars I'm not turning it down. If someone offers me 17,000 dollars I am all over it. In the meantime, I will continue to write for less than that and hope for the best. I do it with my eyes open and the realization that it may never happen. Rick Reilly can be as pissed off as he wants to be.