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Could a newspaper be run with freelancers?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Shifty Squid, Nov 8, 2008.

  1. Shifty Squid

    Shifty Squid Member

    Just a thought I was having while I was pondering where newspapers are headed ...

    Could newspapers be successful, financially and otherwise, being run more like a magazine, with a few assigning editors and desk people on staff but almost all copy being contracted out-of-house. Instead of a full staff of full-timers, they'd strip it down to a skeleton staff and just try to pay per story.

    Obviously, there's a lot of value in having beat guys who are around this stuff every day. But I wonder if this isn't something some paper will try soon, or if a new paper might spring up somewhere with this strategy so we'd all see how well it would do.

    I'm thinking it probably wouldn't work unless you paid tremendously well because your writers would need to get full-time employment, so you wouldn't be able to cover a lot of the local stuff you need to as a newspaper without those. Maybe you'd have to keep two or three FT writers on staff to fill in the gaps.

    But I could be wrong. Any thoughts? Has this been tried, and I haven't noticed it?
  2. Mystery_Meat

    Mystery_Meat Guest

    Not a daily newspaper, at any rate. There's just too much copy to produce over a typical week. You'd either need a lot of freelancers, or a core of freelancers willing to produce 5-8 stories a week, and neither are very likely. A weekly paper could do it, or a very small paper or a niche paper. But not a paper of record, I wouldn't think.
  3. pseudo

    pseudo Active Member

    Squid, I think you just described the staff at most small-town weeklies, including mine. Far as I know, our ME and news editor are the only full-time employees on the masthead; the rest of us are "correspondents." I've been in the office exactly once since I hired on in July.

    I can't see any way that kind of mom-and-pop operation could work for a serious newspaper with multiple beats, though.
  4. Shifty Squid

    Shifty Squid Member

    Kinda what I'm thinking, pseudo.

    Although, even if we're right, I wonder if that would stop some chain (cough, Gannett, cough) from trying it as a last-ditch move to survive.
  5. Magic In The Night

    Magic In The Night Active Member

    Freelancers not always the most reliable. And not really all that adept at turning a story in a day. So I'm going to say no unless they completely give up on quality and just try to have freelancers doing puff pieces and using wire for the rest.
  6. Goldeaston

    Goldeaston Guest

    I'm told there is a large major metro that is very close to going to all freelancers for its prep coverage.
  7. Angola!

    Angola! Guest

    That doesn't surprise me at all.

    Hell, most major metros have a prep editor and one other person and then string the rest of the games anyway.
  8. Shifty Squid

    Shifty Squid Member

    Yeah, I agree with Angola. The AJC, for instance, does it almost entirely with part-timers, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them go to more of a contract basis soon with all the cuts there. The tough part there is that their online operation is so big that I wonder how they'd handle pay with online stuff.
  9. ServeItUp

    ServeItUp Active Member

    Angola described the sports situation at a paper where I interviewed a couple years back, as well as an opening posted here earlier this year. The prep editor in both cases was expected to cover 40-50 high schools with a network of stringers. It's definitely where we're headed as long as the powers that be don't care about quality, only about filling the holes between the ads.
  10. Fredrick

    Fredrick Well-Known Member

    Newspapers are showing they don't care about quality by getting rid of the salaried people. It'll be a couple full time desk people working every day, maybe getting one day off a week and all 8 dollar an hour stringers before long. They will sell it by saying "how much fun" it will be to cover your favorite team. The copy will be so bad it will amaze the desk/layout people.
  11. I hope and pray this could never take place, especially with some of the stringers I see in my place of employment.
  12. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    To nit-pick one point of the original argument, it assumes that model is working for magazines. It's not. That industry is having just as many ad revenue problems and layoffs as newspapers. Titles are folding left and right.

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